Parking in Princeton remains a thorny problem, and many are looking for a good solution. Recently, an organization named Sensible Streets initiated a campaign to counter the work of the Princeton Parking Task Force and its current proposal for a more equitable parking program in the municipality.
It is easy to see the power of making broad sweeping statements for both the pros and cons on a topic that is emotionally charged.
As residents and small business owners, we are writing to correct some of the talking points that have been presented by Sensible Streets. The work of the task force over the course of 3 years represents a true collaboration among a diverse community of neighbors. An open and inclusive process led to compromises, which reflect a give and take on the part of community members with many different viewpoints. The proposed program will bring more equity and harmonization to the perennially difficult parking landscape in Princeton.
For this letter, we have highlighted just a few of the most prominent assertions made by Sensible Streets, which need context and clarification:
Claim: Adding employee parking creates narrower driving lanes with more traffic congestion and obstructed sight lines for cars and children. Bus pickups and school drop-offs become more dangerous for children and drivers.
Fact: Parking on public streets is legal on almost every street in central Princeton. Limitations only concern the time of day and duration when cars can park on a street. Having a small number of additional parked cars does not make for a less safe municipality. In fact, street parking serves as a recommended traffic calming practice to deter speeding and cut-through traffic.
Claim: Employee parking in your neighborhood means narrower streets, more double parking when delivery trucks and contractors are on the street, and more congestion.
Fact: There is no evidence that this is true. Instead, having the permit parking for homeowners could guarantee a minimum of 1 parking spot for residents. Here is how the number of parking spots per street for employee permits will be determined under the proposal: The number of possible parking spaces is capped; then residents have first right of refusal for up to 2 permits; of left-over possible spots a maximum of 50% can be purchased for employee parking. For a street like Moran Ave, no employee permits would be issued. For a street like Linden Lane the maximum would be 9 permits.
Claim: Fewer spots for residents means more time searching for a parking place.
Fact: Virtually all residents have parking spaces in driveways that they own. Those who do not have a driveway will have more and guaranteed options for parking under current Parking Task Force proposals.
Claim: Subsidizing businesses like Lululemon and Starbucks with dedicated parking in front of your home enables them to pay their workers less. Businesses themselves should cover the cost of employee parking, not us.
Fact: The logic by which affordable employee parking would lead to a reduction in wages is hard to follow. In fact, the opposite holds: employers providing affordable parking ensure the employee retains more of their earnings.
Sensible Streets mentions that this proposal supports corporate stores. However, this parking program would actually help employees primarily of local businesses and not in the form of a subsidy but as a cost
to the businesses. The Task Force’s proposals do not add cost to taxpayers since permit fees would cover the program’s costs.
Claim: Packing streets with cars and asking employees and patrons to walk through residential neighborhoods late each night will lower the market values of our homes.
Fact: Employees are already walking through most neighborhoods at night to retrieve their cars. Yet Princeton property values keep rising. This proposal in fact serves as a vehicle to ensure that there is limited employee parking in neighborhoods as the number of permits is controlled per street, with residents given priority for permitting.
Claim: The proposal includes the hiring of a technology firm with license plate reader technology to patrol and scan neighborhoods 3x/day for a lion’s share of the revenues generated from parking.
Fact: In the early stages of discussions, use of technology was proposed as an option for monitoring parking permits. Through inclusive neighborhood meetings, this option was removed from consideration in July 2021. This is just one of many examples of how the Task Force has been evolving through public input.
Claim: Tree-lined streets are not a resource to be exploited. They are an asset to protect. Appropriating Princeton’s neighborhoods for commercial parking exploits Princeton’s distinct residential districts for the benefit of businesses and developers.
Fact: Tree-lined streets are not being exploited under this program. Community owned asphalt is being utilized to alleviate some of the economic pressures lower wage workers must endure, as well as provide much needed space for those with inadequate parking. Public property is generally meant to be used for the benefit of all, not just the private property owners adjacent to it.
Claim: Historic neighborhoods like Witherspoon-Jackson and the Western District deserve to be protected from commercial spillover. A vibrant downtown is not Princeton’s only asset.
Fact: A walk through the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood can reveal that half the neighborhood has been welcoming “spillover” for years. Many employees live in the WJ neighborhood and many walk through WJ to get to their vehicles at the Community Park lot. These “impacts” have not degraded the historic character of the neighborhood. They are simply part of that character.
Claim: The parking proposal has been described as “gargantuan” “far reaching” and “highly complex”. Why didn’t the Council make residents aware of the details and impacts?
Fact: As stated, the parking task force meetings have been open to the public, ongoing for years, and reported on by local media. Meetings have been held with all sections of town in a transparent process. It is crucial to note that Sensible Streets has, by contrast, been operating anonymously and without transparency.
Claim: Princeton residents pay handsomely for our streetscapes. Let’s put tax dollars to better use to solve the problem and create a more livable Princeton.
Fact: Princeton businesses, which are often owned by Princeton residents, also pay handsomely through their tax dollars. The parking program being proposed does not make Princeton any less livable. It simply allows a few more cars to park for a few more hours on some blocks in town.
We encourage all Princetonians to explore the parking proposal and join the conversation.
Gabrielle Carabone & Matthew Errico– The Bent Spoon
Laurent Chapuis – The Corkscrew
Jessica Durrie – Small World Coffee
Aubrey Haines – Princeton Property Partners
Kathy Klockenbrink – Jammin Crepes
Jon Lambert – Princeton Record Exchange
Raoul Momo – Terra Momo Restaurant Group
Heidi Moon – Miya’s Table & Home
Dean Smith & Joanne Farugia – JaZams Toys & Books
Dorothea von Moltke — Labyrinth Books