Trenton, NJ (TRE)
The bright and airy transit center houses passenger, retail and office areas. Imaginative public art installations include colorful handmade tiles decorated with historic Trenton scenes.
72 South Clinton Avenue
Trenton Transit Center
Trenton, NJ 08609
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 433,918
- Facility Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
- Parking Lot Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
- Platform Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
- Track Ownership: Amtrak
The Trenton Transit Center, rebuilt and reopened in July 2008, straddles the rails of the Northeast Corridor where it runs through the city in a trench at the station, wide enough for seven working tracks and several storage tracks. Trenton has known rail service since the very early days of American railroad, when the Camden and Amboy (C&A) Railroad first built a rough wooden building for passenger and freight traffic on East Street in 1837. The station moved to its present location in 1863, alongside the Delaware and Raritan Canal, after rail realignment.
Only 30 years later, in 1893, the Pennsylvania Railroad, successor to the C&A, replaced this station with a stately structure of brick with a tall, mansard slate roof, handsome central closed-gabled bays front and back, and wide eaves to shelter passengers coming off the street. This second PRR station lasted until April 1972, when, at that low-point for passenger railroads, it was razed. Photographic evidence shows the replacement, built in 1976, was much the standard model that Amtrak constructed at the time: rectangular and functional, with a low, boxy metal roof, maintaining the passage that lifted passengers over the cut, extending from street level between the east and west sides, from which they would descend to the island platforms.
Using $46 million in federal and $33 million in state funding, New Jersey Transit’s three-year renovation, begun in 2006, more than doubled the station’s size, from 19,000 to 46,000 square feet. Available retail space was tripled to 6,000 square feet and the waiting room space tripled to 3,400 square feet. Renovations also provided two more restrooms and office space for New Jersey Transit on a mezzanine level. Upgrades were made to heating and air conditioning, elevators, escalators and lighting; provided new passenger information displays and moved ticket windows to reduce congestion problems on the street outside.
Improved function was not the only goal: an improved appearance was also part of the plan. The Raul Wallenberg and Clinton Street façade now sits back from the road in a handsomely hardscaped plaza of its own dotted with trees, public art installations and decorative spherical stone bollards. The entrance welcomes passengers with a wide curving two-story wall of modernist glass windows between stone-faced sections. A pair of slender glass and concrete buttresses, gleaming and iconic in their geometry, flanks the entryway with its large, projecting glass awning; and pierces the dramatically sweeping roof line with their squared towers. Entering the station through a glassed-in vestibule with sliding automatic doors, passengers are greeted by a sweeping, airy two-story hall running the width of the building in front of the ticket counters, exposed beams and trusses painted the same gleaming white as the ceiling high overhead. The concourse that leads over the tracks passes between two pilasters in the ruddy masonry of that wall, which are inset top to bottom with colorful handmade tiles by Lambertville artist Katherine Hackl, which present historic Trenton scenes. Concessions and retail stores in the station provide oases of light and bustling activity in the streamlined sweep of the waiting hall and concourse toward the east, where a matching, but less expansive two-story entry was constructed.
In the beginning, it was Assunpink Creek, which runs alongside the station—famously overflowing and drowning the railroad tracks in the 2011 floods—that brought American settlers to the Trenton area. Mahlon Stacy, a tanner from Hanworth, England, with a small group of fellow Quakers chose the northernmost area between the Assunpink Creek and Burlington, called the Falls of the De La Warr, as their 1/10th share of the West Jersey region. Stacy built his gristmill on the banks of the Assunpink alongside what is now Mill Hill Park. After 1714, when William Trent purchased 800 acres along Assunpink Creek, the Falls settlement increasingly became known as Trent’s Town, and by 1719 the town adopted “Trent-towne” officially.
The Battle of Trenton marked George Washington’s first decisive victory against the British in the American War for Independence: Washington’s forces made the famous dawn crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day, 1776, and defeated the Hessian troops garrisoned there. After the war, Trenton became the nation’s capital for two months—November and December of 1784—and was considered as a site for the permanent capital, only to lose to the demands of the Southern states, which preferred a site near the port of Alexandria, Va. Trenton became the New Jersey state capital in 1790, and incorporated as a city in 1792.
Forward-thinking inventors began to consider improvements to overland transportation methods, and one of the best known personalities was John Stevens of Hoboken. Originally trained in the law, he always tinkered and took great interest in steam-powered machines, beginning with steamboats. Stevens then began to advocate for a steam- powered railroad to connect his shipping services on the two rivers. Although many considered his railroad ideas to be the imaginings of a dreamer, in 1815 the state of New Jersey granted him a charter for a railroad to run between Trenton and New Brunswick.
Nothing came of the idea under John Stevens, but sons Edwin Augustus and Robert Livingston Stevens took up his mantle and were instrumental in founding the Camden and Amboy Railroad (C&A) in 1830. Robert L. Stevens is acknowledged as the creator of the all iron “T” rail that became the standard across the industry. The C&A is also credited with developing ties, spikes, and rail connectors that were later adopted by other railroads. It had first used granite blocks as footings for the iron rails, but when the stone was found to be in short supply, Stevens substituted wood ties. After some test runs, the more flexible wood was found to be a better material.
The New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company (NJRR) were chartered by the state in 1832. By fall 1834 it has completed a line between Jersey City and Newark, and two years later it reached the north shore of the Raritan River. Meanwhile, the C&A was working to provide service southward to Trenton and Camden. The C&A gained its state charter by compromising with the rival Delaware and Raritan Canal (D&R), which also wanted the legal right to build a transportation line across central New Jersey. Working together as the Joint Companies, it was determined that the canal would take a more westerly route than the rail line. The C&A would focus on the passenger market while the D&R dealt with heavy freight. The first section of the C&A opened between Bordentown and South Amboy in 1832, and the link to Camden was completed two years later.
In 1837, the railroad’s charter was amended to allow for a branch line from Bordentown to New Brunswick via Trenton. The full line, which paralleled the D&R for half of its route, was completed in early 1839. In anticipation, the NJRR extended its line southwest from New Brunswick to Millstone Junction where the two railroads linked. By sharing tracks, they cut down the Philadelphia-New York route time to approximately five-and-a-half hours. In the late 1850s and 1860s, the C&A realigned the branch line between Trenton and New Brunswick due to poor soil conditions along the canal; the new right-of-way largely conforms to that used as part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. To consolidate control over this vital rail corridor, the C&A and the NJRR merged in 1867 to form the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company.
In the decade prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed its main line from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and soon turned its acquisitive gaze towards New York City. The PRR achieved its goal in 1871 when it took out a 999 year lease on the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company, which by then included rail lines through Trenton.
Trenton, meantime, needed the rails to bring its expanding industrial products to market. By the early 20th century, the city was producing ceramics and pottery (Boehm and Lenox), rubber, steel and steel rope and cable. Before World War I, Trenton would claim to be the “Nation’s Tire Capital.” Three of the major inventions that came out of Trenton were John Fitch’s steamboat, John Roebling’s steel cable and Peter Cooper and Charles Hewitt’s I-beam. Roebling’s wire rope especially changed the face of modern civil engineering. Roebling’s company completed the Wheeling Bridge connecting West Virginia and Ohio, as well as working on the Brooklyn Bridge and producing materials for the George Washington and Golden Gate bridges.
Such was civic pride in their industrial capability that in 1935 the Trenton Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest for a saying to present themselves to the world, awarding the prize to “Trenton Makes, the World Takes,” which became the motto proudly displayed on the historic Lower Trenton Bridge—easily visible today from passing Amtrak and commuter trains as they cross the Delaware.
By 1984 the winds of change were blowing again, and both New Jersey Transit and the city sought to improve not only the station with a much-needed upgrade, but to begin the process of revitalizing the city around the station. With the re-opening of the Trenton station in 2008, the city hired the consulting firm of Basile Bauman Prost Cole & Associates to conduct an analysis of market opportunities, urban design requirements and implementation strategies for the redevelopment of the train station area, producing a public report. In July of 2010, then- Mayor Douglas Palmer formed a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to provide advice and disseminate information to the larger community on the ongoing redevelopment process.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this station, which is served by approximately 60 daily trains, as well as the tri-weekly Cardinal(Westbound: Sunday, Wednesday, Friday; Eastbound: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday). Trenton is also served by New Jersey Transit and SEPTA commuter trains, New Jersey Transit buses and the nearby New Jersey Transit RiverLINE light rail, a short block away.
- 1800 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 500 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- High Platform
- Parking Attendant
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office