Train Transportation in Camden: How it can be improved

By: Matthew Dawson

The city of Camden is a commuter city, known for its multiple modes of train transportation including the PATCO speed line and the River Line. Even though these trains have their advantages, they also have their problems. This means that train transportation in and out of Camden is not as good as it can be. There are improvements that can be made to help make train transportation in Camden better. Some problems about the PATCO and the River Line include that they are not accessible to everyone, there are too few train lines, and the parking is sub par.

The first PATCO operation was on February 15, 1969. During this time, there were 21,000 people who rode the train each day (Matheussen). Now there are currently about 38,000 people who ride the train each day (Matheussen). A rider survey shows that it is estimated that 95 % of commuters who travel on the PATCO live in New Jersey. It is estimated that 77% of commuters ride the PATCO to get to work and 23% of commuters ride the train for recreational purposes (Matheussen). Out of all the passengers who ride the PATCO to work, 88% are employed full-time, 4% work part time, 3% are retired workers, and 3% are students (Matheussen).

From personal experience, I take the speed line to get to school. This is convenient for me because taking the speed line helps me save time and get to school quicker when compared to driving into Camden. By taking the PATCO to get to school, it takes about seventeen minutes to get from the Lindenwold station to the City Hall station. Taking the PATCO helps benefit me because it is cost effective. When I ride the PATCO from the Lindenwold station to the City Hall station, it costs me $1.60 one-way or $3.20 for a round trip each day. By taking the PATCO, this helps me save money on gas because I don’t have to drive as far. There are a total of thirteen destinations that are on the PATCO that start in Lindenwold and end in Philadelphia. The length of the track is about 14.2 miles long (Matheussen). Trains run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Trains run the most frequently during the week between the hours of 6:00 am to 9:00 am and 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm as there is a train that comes about every three or four to twelve minutes (Matheussen). During the late night and overnight hours, trains do not run as frequently as there is only one train that runs every thirty to forty-five minutes (Matheussen).

At some stations such as Ashland, Haddonfield, Westmont, Collingswood, Ferry Avenue and City Hall, these stations are not handicap accessible (Matheussen). The City Hall and 9th-10th and Locust stations don’t have up escalators available (Matheussen). If there are no elevators and ramps at certain stations, this makes it harder for handicapped people to get around. To fix this problem, every station should be handicap accessible. This could be done by adding ramps and elevators to the stations that don’t have them.
Another problem is that none of the Philadelphia stations have parking lots. To fix this problem, there should be parking lots at all of the stations. Parking in cities such as Philadelphia is easier said than done. Most often there is parking available, but the parking rates are expensive. In the current situation, paying to park is more expensive than taking the high-speed line, thus defeating the purpose of the PATCO. One option is for the Delaware River Port Authority (the owners of the PATCO) to purchase city lots and make parking available, even if for a small fee to “freedom card” holders, which is already done at the other stations.

Another problem is that most of the trains in the afternoon hours are very crowded. There are many ways to prevent trains from getting too overcrowded. One way to prevent this is that there can be more train cars added to each train so this can help more people ride the trains without being too overcrowded. Another way to prevent trains from getting too overcrowded is that when trains do not run as frequent at certain times of day, trains should run more often. This can be done by having more trains run about every ten minutes instead of every half-hour or forty-five minutes at times of day that trains don’t run very often.

Another type of train that runs through Camden is the River Line, which is run by New Jersey Transit. Regular operation on the train began on March 14, 2004. When the train first operated, it was estimated that there were about 5900 trips each day (Camden/Trenton, New Jersey: River Line Light Rail, 2). This turned out to be a low estimate since it cost about $1.1 billion to construct (Camden/Trenton, New Jersey: River LINE Light Rail, 2). It has a total of twenty light rail cars which each of them can carry up to 186 people (Burkhart, 2). The River Line runs for about thirty-four miles and has a total of twenty stations which start in Camden and end in Trenton. There are about 3,300 parking spaces available (Burkhart, 2). One advantage of riding the river Line is that it is cost effective. There is a price of $1.10 to ride the train to any station to help attract riders (Pearsall, 3). The River Line is not allowed to run while in mixed traffic and with normal railroad trains (Camden/Trenton, New Jersey: River LINE Light Rail, 1).

One problem about the River Line is that passenger service only runs during the day and the early evening. It operates each day during the week between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm with trains running every thirty minutes (Camden Courier Post, 1). On the River Line, passenger service runs during the day and early evening, freight service operates only at night (Camden/Trenton, New Jersey: River LINE Light Rail). To fix this problem, the River Line could run twenty-four hours a day. Another way that this can be fixed is if that trains ran more frequently. To make the River Line better, trains could run every five to ten minutes so people don’t have to wait as long.

Another issue about the River Line is that once the train comes to the station, you only have so much time to board the train. Once the train arrives, riders have approximately twenty seconds to get on the train (Burkhart, 2). To fix this problem, riders who are disabled should be given more time. This is because if people are disabled and have a hard time getting around, they might need more than thirty seconds to get on the train. Another problem about the River Line is that it is not accessible to everyone. People who live in towns such as Glassboro and Sewell are left out. To have access to the River Line from Glassboro, a new train line should be built. This new train would start in Glassboro and end in Camden which would lead up to the River Line. A possible destination on this new train could be in Sewell.

The PATCO and River Line are both acceptable means of transportation but their services are not available to everyone. A solution to help make the PATCO better is to add stops in towns such as Cherry Hill and Chester, PA. The new destination in Cherry Hill would be after the Haddonfield station and before the Westmont station. The new destination in West Chester would be after the 15th-16th & Locust station (Figure 1). In Philadelphia, there will be a stop in West Chester to continue along the same path for the trains. West Chester was chosen because the train will continue traveling westbound instead of going southbound toward the city of Chester. In New Jersey, there will be an additional stop in Cherry Hill. This was added due to its proximity to the other stops and Cherry Hill’s expanding commuting population.

These new destinations would help people living in these towns have easier access to Camden by taking public transportation. Adding a new stop in Cherry Hill and West Chester helps create equal opportunity for people to reach Camden easier who live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

A solution to help make the River Line better is to add another train. A new train could be built in Glassboro and a possible name to the new train could be known as the Glassboro-Camden Line. This can be done by adding new stops in Glassboro, Sewell, Washington Township, Deptford, and Bellmawr (Figure 2).

Train transportation in Camden is good, but there are still many flaws such as limited pick up range, overcrowded trains, limited handicap availability and limited parking. To improve train transportation in Camden, the trains could have more cars on them to prevent them from getting too overcrowded, have more parking at all of the stops and include parking at destinations that don’t have parking available. By having more parking and more cars on trains, this will make it easier for people to move in and out of Camden. Once improvements are made such as adding a new train and having new destinations included, train transportation in Camden will be better than before and will help improve the economy.

Figure 1- PATCO map. It includes new destinations in Cherry Hill and West Chester.
Figure 2 – Camden River Line Map. It includes new proposed train with stops outside of Camden.

Works Cited
• N/A. “Camden/Trenton, New Jersey: River LINE Light Rail”. 6 September 2004. Web. 9 November 2012.
• Pearsall, Richard. “River Line to debut amid hopes; criticism: Sunday start is historic, but not everyone is on board”. Camden Courier Post. Courier Post. 12 March 2004. Web. 12 November 2012.
• Burkhart, Michael T. “Riders will face a learning curve”. Camden Courier Post. Courier Post. 12 March 2004. Web. 11 November 2012.
• Camden Courier Post. Courier Post. 12 March 2004. Web. 11 November 2012.
• Matheussen, John. “A History of Commitment.” PATCO Your Life. Your Train. (2012): n. page. 26 October 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. .
• Matheussen, John. “PATCO MAP.” PATCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov 2012. .
• Matheussen, John. “Sky scraper city.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Nov 2012. <http://www.google.com/imgres?q=nj+river+line&hl=en&safe=off&tbo=d&biw=1024&bih=653&tbm=isch&tbnid=0zqi8XIeW0pZnM:&imgrefurl=http://www.lightrailnow.org/news/n_nj002.htm&docid=ubQx1zXlbPzQeM&imgurl=http://www.lightrailnow.org/images/snj-lrt-river-line-route-map.jpg&w=569&h=367&ei=V9PLUIWwFtPU0gG6t4Aw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=296&sig=107461360982653597704&page=1&tbnh=143&tbnw=222&start=0&ndsp=20&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0,i:96&tx=107&ty=10

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