First Things First: Riders Get Up Early for Initial Trip

Laurence Storm, 46, of Pine Hill, and Brtandon Harris, 16, of Camden, were the first two people to buy tickets Sunday for the first trip on the River Line at the start of the line in Camden.

Camden Courier-Post – March 15, 2004


They didn’t step on board the train at 5:45 a.m Sunday because the price of gasoline is soaring or because the roads between here and Trenton were congested.

The first people to ride the River Line, South Jersey’s long-awaited 34-mile light rail line, were there for just that reason — to be first.

“My dad dropped me off about 5,” said Brandon Harris, 16,of the Parkside section of Camden, who was first to buy a ticket at the Entertainment Center station, the start of the line at the Camden end.

“I just wanted to be the first guy,” Harris, a student at the Camden County Vocational-Technical School, who said he had no particular interest in trains or mass transportation.

By the time the white, blue and yellow train pulled into the station shortly before 5:45, a half-dozen other riders had gathered on the platform.

And there already were about 20 people aboard, savvy riders who had boarded in Pennsauken, next to the garage where trains are stored overnight.

But no one seemed to be jockeying for bragging rights. Everyone was smiling and the line was universally declared a good ride.

Passenger service on the billion-dollar River Line began as the sun rose Sunday.

It did so without hoopla, far different from the day before when dignitaries — allowed to take a preview run — gave speeches, bands played and the governor broke a bottle of champagne over a rail car.

Most of those aboard the first passenger run on Sunday, appropriately enough, were rail buffs for whom trains and their history are a passion.

Mike Friedberger, 56, of Rockaway, got up at 2:30 a.m. to ride the first train, his 12-year-old daughter, Rachel, in tow.

For him, the inaugural run was old hat.

“I rode the first PATCO train (in 1969),” Friedberger said, “and the first train to Atlantic City (in its latest incarnation).”

About 85 passengers made the inaugural River Line trip to Trenton,arriving “on or close to schedule” about 6:58 a.m., said Penny Bassett-Hackett, spokeswoman for NJ Transit.

Eddie Ruberte drove in from Mount Laurel with his two daughters, Anadie, 4, and Evanna, 6.

Ruberte said he wanted to see what the line was like “after all those delays.”

The girls seemed excited just to be on an early morning adventure with Dad.

One rider who expects to be back is Bob Vogel, one of several members of the West Jersey Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society who boarded the train at the 36th Street Station in Pennsauken.

“I’m going to take it to New York City,” said Vogel, a 62-year-old chemist from Collingswood, adding he’ll take PATCO to the River Line to a NJ Transit train north.

“It will take longer,” he conceded.

But it also will relieve him of the drive to Hamilton Township he now makes to catch the train to the city.


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