Okay, with a name like “West Trenton,” you would think that the station would be…slightly less middle-of-nowhere. I mean, when the surrounding attractions include farmland and a country club, it’s pretty easy to say that there’s a degree of…middle-of-nowhere-ness to this place. And that’s just strange to me, since the station is supposedly in New Jersey’s capital – even SEPTA’s website says so. But it’s actually a clever mislead: “West Trenton” is a small neighborhood in Ewing Township! This station isn’t in Trenton at all!
Continuing with West Trenton’s deceit, we begin with the outbound platform, which isn’t even a platform anymore. If the fence blocking access to the track doesn’t clue passengers in, the multitude of signs (in different fonts and colors!) saying various permutations of “Don’t use this platform” hopefully do. It’s a shame, though, because the building is quite pretty. It now houses a private business, but nothing fun like a cafe or a candy shop – just a government and public affairs firm. Yawn.
The inbound and outbound platforms are linked by a decrepit old tunnel. The inbound platform is super wide and entirely low-level, but there is shelter along almost the entire thing. Benches, wastebaskets, ads, schedules, and newspaper boxes are among the amenities here. There’s even a “Royal Flush” outhouse! But again, it’s all low-level, so no wheelchair accessibility. A rusting, overgrown staircase leads down to Sullivan Way, not that there’s much down there.
The building was open when I was here in the evening rush, so I think it’s safe to assume that it’s open all day on weekdays, if not every day. Honestly, there’s not much reason not to have it open – you can’t actually buy tickets in there, so no staff is required. But it is a really nice little waiting room: enjoy the temperature-controlled environment as you relax on your wooden bench with your phone happily charging in one of the outlets on the wall!
The parking lot here is truly a sight to behold. I don’t think anyone’s even thought about paving this thing in twenty years, let alone actually done it; the whole thing is practically a free-for-all with no space markings, so people just park wherever they can fit. Still, there’s a positive to the insanity: the whole lot (“142” spaces officially, but who knows) is free! Hey, I’ll take it. Funnily enough, the “Kaufman Zita Group” firm’s parking lot on the outbound platform is in pristine condition.
Oh, and special attention has to be given to West Trenton’s utterly terrible bus stop. Yes, believe it or not, this station has a bus connection…to a peak-only variant of the NJT 608. Now, I get it, not many people are boarding the bus here. And for what it’s worth, the outbound stop isn’t terrible. But the inbound one? I mean, you’ve either gotta check yourself for ticks afterward from the rampant grass, or you’ve gotta check yourself into the hospital ’cause you were run over on the sidewalkless street! I was thankful when my (late) bus finally arrived to get me out of here.
Station: West Trenton
Ridership: Surprise, surprise, this station in a sprawled-out, low-population area that’s within the inflated “New Jersey” fare zone gets middling ridership. West Trenton has about 291 boardings per day and 353 leavings per day – if the boardings was the one with the strangely higher number, I could make a joke about how people want to get out of New Jersey, but alas, the leavings get the edge over boardings. And no, I have no idea why that is.
Pros: The thing that struck me most about West Trenton was its building being open seemingly all the time. That’s so awesome, and even though it doesn’t have the bits and bobs that other SEPTA buildings get, it’s still a nice indoor place to wait for the train. Also, the free parking does offset the high New Jersey fare a little bit.
Cons: The parking situation is hilariously insane, while the bus stop is hilariously awful. Less funny is the lack of wheelchair accessibility; yes, I know this isn’t an important station by any means, but it is an isolated one that’s a long-ish drive from its neighbor because of the Delaware River. Hey, that’s another thing: isolation. There’s just not a lot around here.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Aside from a few office parks and the New Jersey School for the Deaf, you haven’t got much in the station’s immediate surroundings. If you’re willing to walk for about 12 minutes, you’ll find West Trenton’s very auto-oriented “downtown” – it has a few restaurants and that’s about it (although some of them look great).
Final Verdict: 5/10
I gotta give it props for the building, but it’s downhill from there. Aside from the parking lot and the low platform, what really drags West Trenton down for me is that it just feels rather insignificant as a terminus, given its location and low ridership. And what I find really interesting is that the Trenton-Mercer Airport is about a mile and a half down the tracks! This airport is surprisingly legit, with a ton of service from Frontier Airlines (because of course they’d be the airline to fly out of a place like this). They carry 729,000 passengers a year out of here already, and it could theoretically be more with a shuttle bus to this station, or even a new extension. Yes, it’s a pipe dream with a low return (for now, at least), but a station at the 5th fastest growing airport in the US would also be closer to more houses, more offices, and the College of New Jersey. Even better last-mile connections here besides the awful 608 could improve ridership and create reverse commutes to suburban jobs. But as it stands, we’re stuck with a pretty lame little terminus.
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I commuted from the West Trenton station for fourteen years. Lived about a mile away. Yes, it’s in a pretty isolated spot. Glad to read that the station on the inbound side is open. And that the parking is still free.It wasn’t when I was there. Back then, we never used the tunnel unless there was a freight train going by. And the parking lot? Not often ploughed well, if at all, after a snowstorm. One night I had to go to the gas station nearby and ask to have my car towed out of a snow drift.
I haven’t researched this, but I think the buildings date back to when a train to New York ran through there. SEPTA inherited them.
@Patricia: Yes, West Trenton was a stop on the old Reading Railroad line towards New York. The service lasted until the early 1980’s under Conrail.