In April 2000, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail of NJ Transit opened the beginning of its passenger service from Bayonne through Jersey City. When the 20.5-mile railway service is completed, it will reach the Vince Lombardi Park-Ride in Bergen County. The Light Rail project began during the administration of Governor Thomas Kean in the late 1980s.
Commuters traveling through Jersey City compare it to when trolley cars moved through the community's streets. Jersey City has thirteen stops on the railway line: Danforth Avenue (East of Garfield Avenue), Richard Street (East of Garfield Avenue), Liberty State Park and Park-Ride (between Communipaw and Johnston Avenues), Jersey Avenue (South of Grand Street), Marin Boulevard (South of Grand Street), Essex Street (between Hudson and Greene Streets), Exchange Place (Hudson Street between York and Montgomery Streets), Harborside Financial Center (East of Greene Street between Morgan and Steuben Streets), Harsimus Cove (Metro Plaza Drive), and Pavonia-Newport Mall Drive East; the western branch from Liberty State Park runs South to Garfield Avenue (between Union and Carteret Streets), Martin Luther King Drive (at Virginia Avenue) and West Side Avenue (at Claremont Avenue).
Several of the stations are located near well-known Jersey City sites. Liberty Science Center and the Central Rail Road of New Jersey Terminal can be reached from the Liberty State Park station. The Paulus Hook Historic District, Sugar House, Morris Canal Little Basin, and nineteenth-century row houses are within walking distance from the Essex Street station. Goldman-Sachs Tower at the former Colgate-Palmolive Company Complex, Commercial Trust and Fleet Bank buildings, J. Owen Grundy Pier, and apartment complexes appear against the Lower Manhattan skyline while traveling to the Exchange Place station. The historical Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse appears in full view when riding to the Harborside Financial Center station.
On the western spur of the Light Rail, the Jersey City Medical Center is reached from the Garfield Avenue station. New Jersey City University's campus is within walking distance of the West Side Avenue station. The Light Rail will eventually extend westward toward the Hackensack River to accommodate the 8,000-unit Bayfront development planned between the river and Route 440.
Art Along the Rails
N.J. Transit incorporated original artworks in the design of several of the stations. It obtained a federal grant of $2.5 million for the project. Ana M. Alaya of the Star-Ledger comments, "In displaying artwork in stations along its new line, ... NJ Transit is upholding a tradition of displaying major artworks at transit hubs that are firmly established in places from Mexico City to Paris to Moscow." In Jersey City, four stations display artworks reflective of the history and culture of the city and its environs:
The tribute to Dr. King is fitting. He visited Jersey City twice within the three years before his assassination on April 4, 1968. On September 21, 1965, Dr. King received an honorary Doctor of Laws and Letters degree from Saint Peter's College (now University) and delivered his "American Dream Speech." He had received the Nobel Peace Prize the previous year. On March 27, 1968, Dr. King visited the Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church (northeast corner of Bergen and Belmont avenues). Over 2000 individuals tried to find a seat in the church with a capacity for only 1,000 visitors to hear his ten-minute speech. He urged his audience to participate in the "Poor People's Campaign" on April 22 in Washington, DC, that he never lived to see. Jersey City's former Jackson Avenue and Public School, No. 11 (now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School) on Bergen Avenue are named for Rev. King.
Alaya, Ana M. "NJ Riders on Fast Track to Art World." Star-Ledger 21 July 2000.
Gomez, John. "Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Historical Tour." Jersey City, NJ: Franklin, 2000.
Kaulessar, Richards. "Martin Luther King--40 Years Later." Jersey City Reporter 25 September 2005