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The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) is a light rail system, owned by New Jersey Transit and operated by the 21st Century Rail Corporation, that connects the communities of Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City and North Bergen in New Jersey.

The eventual length of the line, when complete, will be 20.6 miles (33.2 km).

With an eventual overall cost of approximately $2.2 billion, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail is one of the largest public works projects ever in New Jersey. The project is being funded by a mixture of state and federal funds. The Federal Transit Administration is contributing 41% of the $1.2 billion cost of extension projects through 2008.[1]

Overview Edit

A light rail system for this densely populated area had been on the drawing board for over 15 years. During the 1980s and early 1990s, planners and government officials realized that alternative transportation systems needed to be put in place to relieve increasing congestion along the Hudson River] waterfront, particularly in the vicinity of the Hudson River crossings. After extensive studies, it was decided that the most efficient and cost-effective system to meet the growing demands of the area would be a light rail system, constructed in several phases.

The design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the system was part of a public-private partnership. In 1996, New Jersey Transit awarded a "DBOM" (design/build/operate/maintain) contract to the 21st Century Rail Corporation (a subsidiary of the Washington Group], an engineering and construction consulting firm). Under the contract, 21st Century Rail would deliver a fleet of vehicles, a guaranteed completion date, and 15 years of operation and maintenance of the system, for a fixed price. The initial contract only covered the Initial Operating Segment, but it was later renegotiated for subsequent extensions.

The light rail opened to the public in April 2000, with the initial operating segment connecting Bayonne (34th Street) and Jersey City (Exchange Place), as well as a spur line to West Side Avenue in Jersey City. Later that year, the service was extended northward to Pavonia-Newport. In 2002, service was extended out to Hoboken Terminal, which completed the first Minimum Operating Segment (MOS) of the project. MOS-2 of the project involved extending service south to 22nd Street in Bayonne (which was completed in 2003), west and north of Hoboken Terminal into Weehawken (which was completed in to Lincoln Harbor in 2004 and to Port Imperial in 2005), and through Union City to Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen (which commenced on February 25, 2006).

Original plans called for extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail north to the Vince Lombardi Park-and-Ride in Ridgefield, to Society Hill on the West Side Avenue branch, and south to 5th Street in Bayonne, to complete the planned third Minimum Operating Segment (MOS-3). Currently the line is now planned to have its southern terminus at 8th Street in Bayonne, with funding announced by the State of New Jersey to complete the line to 8th Street at an event on May 6, 2006.[2] No other firm expansion plans have been announced nor has any timeline been set for the completion of subsequent parts of the project.

Within Hoboken, the line was to have originally been configured as a through-running operation, with an alignment built either through or adjacent to Sinatra Park en route to Port Imperial in Weehawken, which would have given access to both the PATH station entrance and the bus terminal. This was shelved in favor of the current stub-end station in the southern end of Hoboken Terminal and the current route along Hoboken's west side.

Despite its name, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail only serves Hudson County at present (although, in flyers dating from the early 1990s, the project was described as the Hudson River Waterfront Transportation Corridor, no mention of Bergen County and not then featuring the extension to Bayonne). Following the review of possible northern termini versus the Vince Lombardi Park & Ride (which briefly included a proposal for a single-track operation to Paterson via the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway's right of way), the light rail was proposed to extend further north into neighboring Bergen County, along the former Erie RR Northern Branch, to terminate in Tenafly. The high cost of this plan ($1 billion), coupled with the shifting of priorities toward a new $6 billion commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River for the Northeast Corridor, effectively put an end to such plans.

Route and its right of wayEdit

Excepting the portions in downtown Jersey City where the route runs at grade or elevated, the system follows the former rights-of-way of the West Shore Railroad (north of Hoboken) and Central Railroad of New Jersey (south and west of Liberty State Park).

Service Edit

As of February 11, 2006, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail operates a service pattern using three connected routes. This service pattern offers direct trips between stations north of Hoboken Terminal and those to the south by eliminating ... with the opening of new stations in Union City and North Bergen on February 25, 2006.

The three routes are:

There is also a "Bayonne Flyer" service, which operates weekday morning and evening peak hours and stops at all Bayonne stops, Liberty State Park, Essex Street, Exchange Place, Harborside Financial Center, Pavonia-Newport, and Hoboken Terminal.

Park-and-Ride lots are available at East 22nd Street, East 34th Street, East 45th Street, West Side Avenue, Liberty State Park and Tonnelle Avenue. In total, there are 3,880 parking spaces.

The service operates on an honor system. Passengers purchase tickets at NJ Transit ticket vending machines (TVMs). One-way and ten-trip tickets must be validated at automated Validators located near the TVMs. The validator will date and time stamp the ticket for 90 minutes of use. Fare inspectors perform random ticket inspections on vehicles and at stations. This is similar to the system used in Europe for many light rail lines. The fine for fare evasion on the Light Rail is $100.

A one-way adult fare is $2.10. A monthly, unlimited pass is $64. Senior Citizens (62 and older) and passenger with disabilities travel on the light rail at a reduced fare of $1.05 (valid ID may be requested). Customers who purchase one-way tickets can purchase HBLR "tickets with transfer" from HBLR ticket vending machines at a cost of $2.80. When validated, these tickets may be used for travel on the light rail system, plus a one-zone transfer to any connecting NJ Transit intrastate bus. Customers also may purchase a transfer onboard any intrastate bus that connects with HBLR. Valid current New Jersey Transit weekly and monthly train tickets are also good for travel and do not need validation.

Trains operate from approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. As of February 11, 2006, peak-period service operates every five minutes for customers traveling within the core sections of the system. The frequency of departures from the endpoint terminals is every 10 minutes (increased from 12-minute intervals). Weekday off-peak trains run every 5-10 minutes. Trains operate at 20 minute intervals from late evening to 1 a.m. on each branch. Weekend trains operate every 15 minutes during the day, and every 20 minutes from late evening to 1 a.m.

Rolling stock Edit

The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system has 48 electrically-powered vehicles, built by Kinki Sharyo. The cars were assembled in Harrison, New Jersey. Each vehicle is 90 feet (27.4 m) long, and has four sets of double-opening doors on each side. The vehicles can seat 68 passengers each, with standing room for another 122 passengers. Hudson-Bergen Light Rail vehicles are all air-conditioned.

The Newark Light Rail system uses the same type of vehicle.

Infrastructure Edit

The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system uses a combination of old rail and new (private) rights-of-way for most of its length, with some grade separation in certain areas. It shares a lane with automobiles on a portion of Essex Street in downtown Jersey City, but for the most part, does not operate with other traffic. Special signals at at-grade crossings automatically change traffic lights in favor of the light rail, to minimize stopping.

The line from 22nd Street to Liberty State Park was once the main line of the Central Railroad of New Jersey; the CNJ's branch to Newark was used for the line west to West Side Avenue. From Liberty State Park to Hoboken Terminal, the line uses a brand-new right-of-way, parts of which rest on the bed of the Morris Canal. From Hoboken to the curve south of 2nd Street, the line runs next to New Jersey Transit tracks, formerly the main line of the Lackawanna Railroad; north of the curve it uses what had been Conrail's River Line, and was originally the New Jersey Junction Railroad. The tunnel under the New Jersey Palisades was originally the West Shore Railroad's main line.

In order to obtain the right-of-way for the line north from Hoboken, which had been part of Conrail's River Line, New Jersey Transit paid to upgrade Conrail's Northern Running Track, allowing Conrail to use it for freight trains instead of the River Line.

Ridership Edit

The system currently serves an average 30,000 customers per day,[3] and is expected to expand to more than 34,000 customers per day by 2007, and eventually to 100,000 daily riders when the project is completed in 2010. Much of the additional ridership is expected to come from real estate developments that are being built around the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stations on vacant brownfield land and underutilized properties.

After September 11, 2001, the PATH system's Exchange Place station was closed due to water damage in connection with the destruction of the World Trade Center. As a result, the Light Rail was the only means of rail transit to Exchange Place, and the only practical way there from points outside of Jersey City.

Station art Edit

Many of the stations feature art created by a variety of artists. For example, the Liberty State Park station features glass tile art work representing a number of "fallen flag" railroad logos. All in all, 30 artists have created 50 art pieces for the stations.

Urban revitalization Edit

The light rail has been a catalyst for both residential and commercial development along the route, and has played a significant role in the revitalization of New Jersey's Gold Coast. Many of the stops were sited in vacant or underutilized areas, which are now beginning to see intense residential and mixed-use development. The line running along Essex Street in downtown Jersey City has spawned 3,000 residential units in five years. An 86-acre tract of land bordering Liberty State Park is being redeveloped into a transit-oriented development known as Liberty Harbor North, which will consist of 6,000 residential units and millions of square feet of commercial space.[4] Other developments are either planned or already underway in Union City, Bayonne, and Weehawken, in areas very near to light rail stations.

Station listingEdit

Current StationsEdit

There are currently 23 active Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stations and a 24th station under construction:

City Station /
Services Opened Transfers and notes
North Bergen Tonnelle Avenue
at 51st Street
West Side–Tonnelle
February 25, 2006 NJ Transit buses 83 and 127
Union City Bergenline Avenue
at 49th Street
West Side–Tonnelle
February 25, 2006 NJ Transit buses 22, 22X, 84, 86, 89, 156, 159, and 181
one block west on JFK Boulevard: NJ Transit buses 88 and 154
Weehawken Port Imperial
Port Imperial Boulevard, north of Pershing Road
West Side–Tonnelle
October 29, 2005 NJ Transit buses 23, 156, 158, and 159
Lincoln Harbor
Waterfront Terrace, north of 19th Street
West Side–Tonnelle
September 7, 2004 one block east on Harbor Boulevard: NJ Transit buses 64, 67, 68, 156, 158, and 159
Hoboken 9th Street-Congress Street
9th Street, west of Jackson Street
West Side–Tonnelle
September 7, 2004 on Paterson Plank Road: NJ Transit buses 22X, 85, 87, and 123
one block west on Palisade Avenue: NJ Transit buses 22, 84, and 86; Red & Tan in Hudson County buses 99 and 99S
2nd Street
west of Marshall Street
West Side–Tonnelle
September 7, 2004 one block south on Paterson Avenue: NJ Transit buses 22X, 85, and 87
Hoboken Terminal
South end of Terminal Concourse
22nd Street–Hoboken
September 29, 2002 NJ Transit rail, PATH, and NY Waterway
NJ Transit buses 22, 22X, 23, 64, 68, 85, 87, 89, and 126; TransportAzumah bus TAZ3
Jersey City Pavonia-Newport
Mall Drive East
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
November 18, 2000 PATH and NY Waterway
on Washington Boulevard: NJ Transit buses 64, 68, 86, and 126; Red & Tan in Hudson County buses 4, 5, and 16; TransportAzumah bus TAZ3; A&C Bus
Harsimus Cove
Metro Plaza Drive
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
November 18, 2000  
Harborside Financial Center
East of Greene Street, between Morgan and Steuben Streets
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
November 18, 2000 NY Waterway
Exchange Place
Hudson Street, between York and Montgomery Streets
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
April 22, 2000 PATH, NY Waterway, and New York Water Taxi
NJ Transit buses 1, 43, 64, 68, 80, 81, 82, and 86; Red & Tan in Hudson County buses 4 and 16; TransportAzumah bus TAZ3; A&C Bus
Essex Street
between Hudson and Greene Streets
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
April 22, 2000 NY Waterway and New York Water Taxi
Marin Boulevard
South of Grand Street
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
April 22, 2000 NY Waterway
Jersey Avenue
South of Grand Street
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
April 22, 2000 one block north on Grand Street: NJ Transit buses 1 and 81; Red & Tan in Hudson County buses 4 and 16
Liberty State Park
between Communipaw and Johnston Avenues
West Side–Tonnelle
22nd Street–Hoboken
April 22, 2000 NJ Transit buses 305 and 981
Garfield Avenue
between Union and Carteret Streets

'West Side–Tonnelle

April 22, 2000 Red & Tan in Hudson County bus 3
Martin Luther King Drive
at Virginia Avenue
West Side–Tonnelle April 22, 2000 NJ Transit bus 87
one block east on Ocean Avenue: NJ Transit bus 81; Red & Tan in Hudson County buses 4 and 99 buses: 81, 87
one block west on Bergen Avenue: Bergen Avenue Bus
West Side Avenue
at Claremont Avenue
West Side–Tonnelle April 22, 2000 one block west on Mallory Avenue: NJ Transit bus 80; A&C Bus
Richard Street
East of Garfield Avenue
22nd Street–Hoboken April 22, 2000 one block west on Garfield Avenue: Red & Tan in Hudson County bus 3
Danforth Avenue
East of Garfield Avenue
22nd Street–Hoboken April 22, 2000 one block west on Garfield Avenue: Red & Tan in Hudson County bus 3
Bayonne 45th Street
Avenue E at East 45th Street
22nd Street–Hoboken April 22, 2000 one block west on Broadway: Broadway Bus
34th Street
Avenue E at East 34th Street
22nd Street–Hoboken April 22, 2000 one block west on Broadway: Broadway Bus
22nd Street
Avenue E at East 22nd Street
22nd Street–Hoboken November 15, 2003 one block west on Broadway: Broadway Bus
8th Street
8th Street at Avenue C
under construction


  • April 15, 2000: The first section opens, from 34th Street to Exchange Place, with a branch to West Side Avenue.
  • November 18, 2000: The light rail is extended north to Pavonia/Newport.
  • September 29, 2002: The light rail is extended north to Hoboken Terminal.
  • November 15, 2003: The light rail is extended south to 22nd Street.[5]
  • September 7, 2004: The light rail is extended north to Lincoln Harbor.[6]
  • October 29, 2005: The light rail is extended north to Port Imperial, with service to that station on weekends only.[7]
  • February 25, 2006: In a ceremony featuring many elected officials, the line is extended to Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen. Full seven day a week service begins at Port Imperial station.[8] Bus service on the 22, 23, 86, 89, and 181 routes is modified on April 8 to "take advantage of the light rail system's reliability and convenience".[9]

Proposed extensions Edit

Meadowlands/Xanadu Edit

NJ Transit is concurrently shifting its priorities towards extending the light rail to the Meadowlands Sports Complex, to provide easy access to the planned Meadowlands Xanadu shopping and entertainment development there. A $300,000 feasibility study was approved, though some estimate that the project could cost from $750 million to $1 billion. Historically, the Meadowlands Sports Complex has been inaccessible by rail, but NJ Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are building a spur from the Pascack Valley commuter line to the complex, which will be the first phase of a larger mass transportation plan for the Meadowlands. The light rail extension (the second phase) would be built after.

Secaucus Junction Extension Edit

An extension of the light rail that the City of Jersey City would like NJ Transit to undertake would have the light rail turn north, between the Harsimus Cove and Newport stops, along 6th Street over the 6th Street Embankment and through the Bergen Arches to the Secaucus Junction Station with stops along the way. There is also a group of preservationists that would like to see the Sixth Street Embankment preserved as an elevated park. The city's proposal would make the embankment half light rail and half elevated park. The Jersey City City Council was to vote on March 14, 2007 on whether to apply for a $4.9 million state loan to help buy and develop as open space the Sixth Street Embankment - land a private developer owns and has shown no intention of selling. The results of this vote is still pending.[10]

Northern Branch, Bergen County Edit

NJ Transit is studying proposals for FRA-spec rail service provided by diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicles similar to the Colorado Railcar DMUs that were tested on the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway (NYS&W) main line (the Bergen County segment) and on the Princeton Branch, along the old Northern Railroad of NJ main line (former Erie Northern Branch), to terminate in Tenafly in central Bergen County.

If built, this would essentially be a separate service, with stations heading south from Tenafly located in Englewood, Leonia, Palisades Park, Ridgefield and Fairview before ending in North Bergen, with a station transfer at Tonnelle Avenue required to access the HBLR. This project, touted as a stepping-stone towards an eventual one-seat ride to/from New York Penn Station, has been met with heavy criticism from several organizations who prefer to have electrified service to Tenafly via the HBLR standard, noting that NJT, if they pursue the DMU option, would be backing out of earlier promises to build LRT on this line.

NJ Transit has received $3.6 million in federal funding to conduct engineering and environmental studies, some of the final preparatory steps, which could result in a schedule starting construction by 2008, with completion by 2011.[11]

Route 440 Edit

The West Side line in Jersey City has not been particularly well patronized. NJ Transit has considered extending the West Side line to Route 440, to terminate at the Hudson Mall, as a means of increasing ridership on the segment. This new western station would only be about 1/4 mile from its current western terminus.

Staten Island Edit

Some proposals have been floated to extend the Bayonne portion of the line across the Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island. However, completing any construction project that involves a collaboration between NJ Transit, New York State, and New York City is a complicated matter at best and any expansion to Staten Island is unlikely in the near future.

The Bayonne Bridge was built to accomodate two extra lanes that could be used for light rail service. However, the Bayonne Bridge as it currently exists will either undergo a complete rebuilding of its bridge deck to accomodate larger container ships that pass underneath it or else the Bayonne Bridge might be rebuilt altogether, possibly with provision for light rail. [12] Light rail extension issues could be discussed further once future Bayonne Bridge plans develop further.

Independent from the idea of running HBLR over the Bayonne Bridge (but possibily to become related in the future), in June 2006, United States Senator Charles Schumer of New York asked that light rail along Staten Island's northern and western shores be formally studied. The West Shore line, as it would be called, would link to a new "park and ride" in Staten Island's Bloomfield section, and stretch all the way to the Staten Island Mall.[13]

Bergen-Passaic Light Rail Edit

Another proposal currently being investigated by NJ Transit is an extension from North Bergen via Hackensack and Paterson to Hawthorne along the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway's Main Line. As proposed for the Northern Branch, DMU cars would be utilized under alternatives currently preferred. A portion of the line's southern stretch, including a North Bergen terminus, would be shared with the Northern Branch.

See also Edit

References Edit


  • "On track to reborn cityscape: The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line proves a boon for older urban areas" by Steve Chambers, Newark Star-Ledger, October 30, 2005.
  • "Xanadu rail plan could be boon for N.J. official" by Shannon D. Harrington, The Record (Bergen County), May 6, 2005.
  • "Light-rail link might cost $1B; Study for Meadowlands extension OK'd" by John Brennan, The Record (Bergen County), April 28, 2005.
  • "Light rail to Tenafly is still a dream; NJ Transit says more study needed" by Soni Sangha, The Record (Bergen County), January 23, 2005.

External linksEdit

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