NJ Transit studies improvements to Walter Rand center

Veronique Hakim (left), executive director of NJ Transit, chats with dispatcher Jenny Payne at a visit to the Walter Rand center. A bus-loading center was approved for the site in 2009.
Veronique Hakim (left), executive director of NJ Transit, chats with dispatcher Jenny Payne at a visit to the Walter Rand center. A bus-loading center was approved for the site in 2009. (PAUL NUSSBAUM / Staff)
Posted: March 20, 2014

CAMDEN NJ Transit is spending $300,000 this year to study possible expansion of the Walter Rand Transportation Center in downtown Camden, the new executive director of the transit agency said Tuesday.

The new study comes more than four years after NJ Transit approved - but did not build - a new $3 million bus-loading center at the site.

Plans for revamping the transit center, which connects South Jersey bus routes, the River Line light-rail line, and the PATCO commuter rail line, have been on hold while business and civic leaders debate what needs to be done in the central Camden location.

The new feasibility study is being done by the Stantec Inc. engineering firm "to review our options and see what would be the best use" of the center, said executive director Veronique Hakim on her first visit to South Jersey since taking the post March 1.

Hakim met transit employees and customers at the Camden transportation center Tuesday as part of a statewide "listening tour."

The study is expected to be completed by the end of this year, NJT spokesman John Durso Jr. said.

Transit officials will meet with local government and civic leaders, as well as major employers such as the Campbell Soup Co. and Cooper University Hospital, Durso said.

In 2009, NJT said it would build a new bus-loading center with a canopy, better lighting, closed-circuit cameras, a public address system, and new signs, as well as repaving and streetscape improvements on Broadway.

The Delaware River Port Authority agreed in January 2010 to provide the $3 million for the makeover, and NJT engineers said at the time that construction would start in late 2010 or early 2011 and be completed by mid-2012.

But nothing was built, and the money remains with the DRPA.

A comprehensive remake of Walter Rand, including provisions to connect with a proposed light-rail line to Glassboro, would require more than the $3 million approved by the DRPA in 2010, officials have said.

Hakim also said no plans were in the works to increase rail service to and from Atlantic City.

Any increase would depend on ridership studies showing a demand for more service, she said.

In 2009, NJ Transit authorized a $735,000 study by LTK Engineering Services on how to improve rail service on the Atlantic City Line.

To date, the study has not been released, although service on the line has been reduced.

Hakim said Tuesday that she was not familiar with the study.

She traveled on the Atlantic City Line after meeting Tuesday morning with NJ Transit employees and customers in Atlantic City, and she transferred to the River Line at a newly opened $40 million station in Pennsauken.

Without more frequent train service on the Atlantic City Line, the new station in Pennsauken won't be as useful as hoped, according to a study last year by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

"Long wait times . . . would offset the potential time savings that are theoretically made possible by the station and might dissuade some riders from using the facility," said the study by the DVRPC, the agency that oversees federal transportation funding in the Philadelphia region.

Currently, there are 12 trains in each direction daily on the Atlantic City Line, with passengers required to wait as long as 21/2 hours between trains at midday.

The multilevel Pennsauken station opened in October at the junction of the east-west Atlantic City Line and the north-south River Line, which operates between Camden and Trenton. It is designed to allow riders to transfer between the two train lines and speed their trips between points on the two.

Hakim said that "as demand changes, we adjust schedules" and that service planners would examine the use of the Pennsauken station to determine whether schedules should be altered.

The Atlantic City Line is the least-traveled of NJT's rail lines, averaging about 3,450 riders per weekday.

Ridership would nearly double, to 6,760 riders a day, if 20 daily round-trips were available, planners have projected.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587 @nussbaumpaul

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