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Task Force Report Recommends Merging Facilities, Transit Strategy

Matthew Hersh
(Candace Braun contributed to this story)

The Princeton Task Force on Community Resources has released a report outlining the need for sharing municipal facilities throughout Princeton Township and Borough and for creating a transportation strategy to allievate road congestion.

Cooperative resource planning and a commission that helps Princeton institutions manage resource sharing, swapping, pooling, and other collaborative efforts are needed, according to the newly-formed task force's report.

In order to achieve this cooperative resource planning and facilities use, the task force has recommended establishing a formal commission or agency to oversee community resources and a yet-to-be-established joint transportation commission.

The initiative was in response to issues regarding the handling of increased demand on Princeton's indoor and outdoor facilities.

A catalyst in launching the effort was to entrench a transportation system throughout both the Township and Borough.

"We really take seriously the question of jitney transportation in Princeton," said Mayor Marvin Reed at a recent Borough Council meeting.

Princeton, long considered as a built-out community, is in need of collaboration in planning future resources and cooperative scheduling of all facilities available to the community, according to the report.

Further, the report calls for the development of a transportation strategy that is created and put into operation through what is termed as a "joint transportation commission."

The realization of such cooperative efforts will be more cost effective for towns to share space instead of creating more single-purpose structures, the report said.

In addition to sharing facilities and taking steps toward one Princeton (at least, infrastructurally), the report focuses heavily on the advent of a Joint Transportation Commission that enables collaborative transportational planning between the Borough and the Township.

The report alludes to the possible creation of a comprehensive shuttle system much like the one that has proved successful on the Princeton University Campus. P-Rides, as the program is known, enables members of the graduate population, who largely live in designated, remote areas of campus, to move laterally around campus without driving. In fact, graduate students who live on campus are not issued parking permits in an effort by the University to eliminate campus driving altogether.

Further, P-Rides utilizes shuttles that operate using energy-efficient, compressed natural gas.

The Task Force report calls for the School Board, towns, and the University to push for the New Jersey Department of Transportation to advance the timetable for its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System study and take steps to assure the Dinky and a connecting Princeton Shuttle System to be included in that plan.

Recently, at a conference hosted by the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association=8Bthe organization that manages the University's P-Rides program=8BNJ Transit was on hand to discuss BRT saying that study gave state transit agency the impetus to begin their own study of the program and that the organization would accept any Bus Rapid Transit plans that included the Dinky at the Princeton Station as part of its route.

The second catalyst for this initiative was the question as to how to use efficiently the Valley Road School Building, which is currently under renovation to house joint-municipal recreation facilities.

With this renovation, opportunities are opening up that could allow for various community groups to use the facility for their activities. Currently some of the space is being used for school services that would otherwise be disrupted due to construction on the public schools. New carpeting, lighting, and ceilings in the building are opening up the potential for the building, said Mayor Reed.

"It's beginning to look a lot different than when the Township had facilities there," he said.

The private schools also have several facilities that could be shared throughout the community. In particular, Princeton Day School, which has 10 athletic fields, will soon be constructing an artificial turf field that could possibly be shared by other community sports teams.

Another area of interest to both the public schools and local universities is the anticipated auditorium that is being built at Princeton High School. According to Mayor Reed, nearby Westminster Choir College has shown an interest in using the school's auditorium for concerts once it has been built.

The college could supplement the school's budget costs in order to have better acoustics in the facility.

" With the forthcoming renovations and expansions on all six public schools, intramural sports may expand at the schools due to the district's "no-cut" policy. The high school will soon have four athletic fields, five tennis courts, one outdoor track, and two gyms. John Witherspoon will have three athletic fields, two gyms, and a pool. The elementary schools have a total of four auxiliary gyms and four athletic fields. In addition, the Valley Road building will have one gym and three shared fields.

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