Op-Ed: Have you heard of the GCL?

By guest contributor Kathleen Daffin

Have you noticed signs in people’s yards that say, “Say NO to GCL” and wondered what that is all about?

Sign courtesy of Kathleen Daffin

The Glassboro-Camden Line (GCL) is a light rail passenger trolley that has been floating around as an idea for South Jersey for decades now. It has been stopped in its tracks several times over the years, and yet, somehow has come back up now, while everyone is still dealing with Covid.

In November, a few individuals caught wind of the train “coming to town” and began a grassroots campaign to stop it. Lawn signs started popping up, conversations on Facebook began, and the movement grew as more became aware.

More than 2000 members are part of a Facebook group called Say NO to GCL. With representatives from every town along the track, this group is coming together around a simple slogan “Let’s Be Smart about Transit.”

Individuals opposed to the GCL do not believe that there is a need for New Jersey to spend billions of dollars on this train. They say that there are better alternatives. Additional bus routes, utilizing intra-county shuttles, investing walkable infrastructure in towns.

They point to the lack of riders on the Riverline, a comparable light rail from Camden to Trenton, as a reason for pause. The Riverline has never met the ridership levels projected. If the Riverline, travelling through more densely populated areas…does not meet projected ridership levels…how would the GCL that travels through smaller communities?

The GCL recently released a final Environmental Impact Study that notes that several hundred properties along the line will be impacted by eminent domain and as well as dozens of acres of green space.

Individuals and businesses will either lose portions of their property and/or their entire property to the GCL.

There are concerns about the “at grade” crossings along the line. The GCL will run North/South during peak hours approximately every 15 minutes. That means as frequently as every 7.5 minutes, it will be crossing tracks at street level…stopping traffic, blaring horns, etc.

DRPA, who is advancing the project, say that towns can apply for “quiet zones” to alleviate the train sounding horns at these crossings. Horns or not, traffic will still be stopped every 7-15 minutes in order to allow these light rail trains to pass.

Police, EMT and fire departments have stated that the potential delay due to these crossings can be 90+ seconds.

There is also little evidence that the GCL will alleviate traffic congestion on route 42, 295, and 76.

Did you even realize this was happening in South Jersey? Who is going to be paying for it? How much will it really cost to build? Why do we need it? Why is this topic being brought up now, when many of us are still dealing with the impacts of Covid and town meetings are being held via Zoom?

There are many questions without answers. Before billions are spent on this train, NJ deserves those answers.

Editor’s note: Kathleen is a resident of Mantua, NJ and graduate of Drexel University. She can be reached at the Facebook Group “Say No to GCL” where she is an admin.