Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 25
 
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
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Downtown Parking Still a Work in Progress

Dilshanie Perera

Though parking signage has changed downtown, the new meter hours are not yet in effect since the Borough is waiting for the state to approve the changes along Route 27 (Nassau Street). Parking rate changes in the Spring Street garage have been implemented, with Sunday fees now at $1.25 per hour.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi expects state approval within the next few weeks, and mentioned that the meter hour extension to 8 p.m. seven days a week, as well as collecting parking fees on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. would be gradually enforced. “We’ll put notices on cars in lieu of summonses for the first few weeks,” he said.

No plans for expanding the number of staff involved in parking enforcement operations have been made at present.

Last week, Borough staff distributed information to merchants in the Central Business District detailing where free parking will be located after the meter hour extension, according to Mr. Bruschi.

The meter changes will be in effect in the area bounded by Nassau Street, Vandeventer Avenue, Wiggins Street, Paul Robeson Place, and Chambers Street.

In addition to the streetside parking meter changes, Borough Council also voted in April to allow regular rates to be charged in the municipal garage on Sundays, and for permits for parking spaces in the garage to be purchased.

Mr. Bruschi explained that the permit purchasing would be open primarily to the business community on a first-come, first-served basis for daytime parking. “We will start out slowly, issuing 25 to 50 permits, to see what the impact is on the garage,” he reported, adding that the decision to increase or reduce the number of permits issued would be decided after such an assessment.

As for Sundays at the garage, Mr. Bruschi noted no decline in the use of the space, and that “revenues are coming in as expected.” The new fee collection has been in effect for the past six weeks, and he said that on any given Sunday, approximately $2,000 worth of additional revenue comes in as a result of charging $1.25 per hour as opposed to the prior Sunday rate of 25 cents.

Noting that the Borough is willing to consider many avenues to curb expenses or increase revenues, there still is “no magic wand we can wave and change things,” Mr. Bruschi said.

The municipality is also collaborating with a few local merchants to discuss ways of achieving greater savings in next year’s budget. In their first meeting they considered health benefits, consolidation, and a number of other topics, Mr. Bruschi said, adding that the next session in July would include the Finance Committee.

“It’s a very interesting time,” Mr. Bruschi observed of the changes the current economic crisis has wrought. “This year has shown that people are scrutinizing everything — from their own homes and how they are saving — to looking at ways other people may help them save money.”

David Newton of Palmer Square Management noted that “this year has been an incredible uphill struggle,” though while the month of April was particularly difficult for merchants, “we’re seeing a slow return to normal” in the way people are shopping.

For now, Mr. Newton said Palmer Square is doing what it can to drive sales, including maintaining events like “Girls’ Night Out” and the jaZams block party, which saw 1,500 and 2,000 attendees, respectively. The parking garages on Chambers and Hulfish Streets recently began offering discounted parking for a few hours on Sunday and evenings in order to bolster business.

Though he is hopeful that the end of this year will be a bit more vibrant for businesses, Mr. Newton characterized 2009 as “a year of treading water.”

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