Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garfield Rail Station in Need of Renewal

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garfield Rail Station in Need of Renewal

Article excerpt

While most North Jerseyans battle highway traffic to reach work, Pete Thompson walks only a few blocks from his Garfield home to catch an NJ Transit train to his job in New York.

"It's so convenient," the Manhattan travel agent said as he surveyed the Spartan-looking Passaic Street rail station. "Too bad we're the forgotten stepchild."

Paper cups, cardboard scraps and fast-food bags swirled around him in a stiff January wind, but Pete looked past the litter and the fence separating the tracks to the westbound side of the Bergen line.

"We need a shelter on that side, but they took it away," he said. "There used to be a ticket machine there, too. But now you have to stand on this side to be sheltered from rain and snow to wait for bells to signal that the train's coming, then you run like hell across the tracks so you can board."

These recent setbacks suggest to commuters like Pete, and local politicians like Joe Delaney, that NJ Transit is letting the old station slip into oblivion the same way the feds closed a post office in this down-at-the-heels neighborhood a few years back. Delaney, Garfield's mayor, thinks he knows why.

"NJ Transit put a lot of money into the Plauderville station across town recently," he said. "They told us a few years ago that when that happened, it might not pay for them to keep two stations here."

NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said the agency "has no plans to abandon Passaic Street," but the mayor's theory makes some fiscal sense. Nearly $12 million was poured into Plauderville, including three lots filled with free parking spaces that now accommodate 266 cars. Average weekday passenger boardings leapt 21 percent to 450 in 2012. The Passaic Street station offers only street parking -- most of it with time limits.

So, why use the Passaic Street station if you can drive 1.2 miles to Plauderville?

"Because it's convenient for the people who live here," Pete said.

True. Convenient, local rail access keeps commuters out of cars and limits traffic congestion. But there are two other good reasons, said City Manager Tom Duch.

"We've had significant redevelopment on that side of the city in the last four years, including a Walmart Supercenter and an Applebee's restaurant, and we've just completed a planning study with the Bergen County Community Action Program that, if approved by the city council, would draw people there," Duch said. …

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