The buses that have been substituting for the Dinky since Oct. 14 are leaving commuters behind and causing them to miss their train connections, due to their maximum capacity of 63 people in comparison with the Dinky’s 119. Students who spoke with The Daily Princetonian said the problem has been especially bad at the beginnings and ends of breaks, when more people come to the station at once, with extra luggage.
On Sunday, Andrew Wonnacott ’19 observed students being left behind as his bus pulled away from Princeton Junction. And the previous Tuesday, the bus he boarded at Princeton Station was completely packed with students and their luggage, all heading to the airports for Thanksgiving break.
According to an NJ Transit statement, the Dinky is one of multiple trains that have been “temporarily discontinued” or undergone “changes of origin/destination” in order to facilitate the federally mandated installation of Positive Train Control equipment on the NJ Transit rail fleet.
“Students who board [the buses] are subject to crowding and discomfort,” Wonnacott said.
He said he saw that at times of peak usage, many passengers were “left behind to wait for the next bus, which creates a cascading effect.”
Geoffrey Mon ’21 described a similar experience when traveling home for Thanksgiving.
“All the seats were filled, and people had to stand in the aisle, but there were still people at the station when [the bus] left,” he said.
Mon added, “there is always an air of uncertainty at the Dinky station now, because no one knows which bus is the right one. Some of the people who got left behind probably didn’t even realize it was the ‘Dinky bus.’”
Even students who do make it onto the intended bus are not guaranteed to catch their train.
The buses operate under a shifted version of the original Dinky timetable, leaving the University 15 minutes prior to the old Dinky departure times to compensate for their more roundabout route to Princeton Junction. Despite this, the buses frequently run behind schedule because of the extra time that it takes to squeeze as many passengers on board as possible.
“We waited while people put suitcases on their laps and jammed closer to each other, and departed at least 10 minutes after we were supposed to depart,” Wonnacott said.
He said that as a result of this delay, he ended up missing his connection at Princeton Junction altogether.
Mon also recalled the bus leaving “at least five minutes late,” on the way both to and from Princeton Junction.
Despite all of students’ observed problems, NJ Transit stands behind the statements in its press release about the necessity of the current modifications.
Jim Smith, director of media relations at NJ Transit, provided no additional information about how NJ Transit plans to address the Dinky bus issue. Instead, he wrote in an email that NJ Transit will continue to “work closely” with the community to address customers’ concerns.
Wonnacott proposed the usage of the University-operated TigerTransit buses as a supplement for the Dinky buses during times of peak usage, specifically the 693 and 701 lines that already operate to Princeton Junction to service University employees.
“This would matter a lot at the beginning and end of winter break, when many more students will leave campus with much more luggage,” Wonnacott said.
The Dinky is scheduled to resume operation mid-January 2019.
The ‘Prince’ has edited the story to correct a quote attribution. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error.