Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 39
 
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
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Martindell Responds to Miller’s Recent Broadside Against Local Incumbents

Roger Martindell
Prospect Avenue

The Dinky and Princeton’s Transit Future Inspire Wide Range of Community Ideas

(4 Letters)


Martindell Responds to Miller’s Recent Broadside Against Local Incumbents

To the Editor:

There is Tea Party appeal in anti-incumbency, particularly regarding taxes. But in his recent broadside against local incumbents appearing in this space, Republican Borough Council candidate Roland Foster Miller disregards the facts.

Here’s a representative list of activities in which I have engaged while dealing with recent tax issues and the 2010 revaluation:

I initiated the program of no municipal tax increase that is now in its second year.

I led the Council’s successful program to assert control over the police department when the department’s mishandling of disciplinary matters caused the Borough to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to suspended officers.

I cast many votes against popular spending measures approved by the Council, including, for example: voting against creating a police captaincy (because it is an unnecessary position) and voting against the Harrison Street Park redevelopment (because, while the park needed redevelopment, the Council did not publicly discuss the half-million dollar budget or the plans).

I joined my Council colleagues in slowing the effort to reconstruct the Community Park Pool with the goal of reducing the $6.1 million price tag, and I have conditioned my vote in favor of the reconstruction on the pledge of $2 million in private funds to the project, thereby substantially reducing the cost to the taxpayer.

Regarding revaluation, I successfully demanded that the appraisal company follow Borough-approved protocols in providing information to taxpayers; I met with the County Tax Assessor to investigate the accuracy of the appraisal company’s work; and I persuaded my Council colleagues to obtain from the Borough Attorney a comprehensive analysis of the Borough’s legal options in challenging and dealing with the effects of revaluation.

Additionally, I recently introduced resolutions to (1) create a revaluation study commission to determine the accuracy of the recent revaluation and consider programs to mitigate its effects, (2) re-open negotiations with Princeton University on its contribution to the Borough’s annual operating fund, and (3) require Borough staff to explore more shared services with surrounding municipalities and counties.

Roland Foster Miller’s broadside against local incumbents, based as it is on tax issues, cannot be laid at my door.

Roger Martindell
Prospect Avenue

The Dinky and Princeton’s Transit Future Inspire Wide Range of Community Ideas

To the Editor:

The five transit presentations at the Princeton Future meeting last Saturday showed the blessing and curse of decisions in Princeton — 100 people will have 150 good ideas, so it takes 10-20 years to pick one and do it. That process and a lack of money to build anything now means the Dinky will be in its current form for 20 years — serving one stop from one corner of town, running only every 20-30 minutes, and meeting only half the rush hour trains.

But what transit will Princeton need in 20, 30, 40 years? Given the lead time, we need to plan now. Gas and cars will be more expensive, so more people will need transit to get to work nearby or along the N.E. Corridor. Students, visitors, the elderly, and others without a car will need a better system, too. We will need transit that lets the whole town reach jobs along Route 1 and the Northeast Corridor, running more frequently and flexibly to meet all the trains at Princeton Junction.

The Bus Rapid Transit proposal will meet these needs for broader and more frequent service. Commuters who now have to park at Princeton Junction station or drive to employers along Route 1 would be better served by an advanced system of vehicles, routes, and signage.

Come to the Princeton Regional Planning Board meeting at 7:30 on Thursday at the Princeton Township building to learn more and to speak up for the planning that is needed now to better serve Princeton decades from now.

Bob Schwartz
Grover Avenue

To the Editor: 

Last Saturday’s Princeton Future session about the Dinky brought out a single crucial message: we need lots of people — at least 400 Princeton residents — to attend this Thursday’s Regional Planning Board meeting at Township Hall (September 30, 7:30 p.m.) and defend the Dinky as it is.

The fate of the Dinky will hang in the balance that night as the Planning Board decides on recommending a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will begin by tearing out the Dinky tracks, subjecting riders to years of delay-prone conventional bus trips as the BRT plan creeps forward. BRT schemes attempted in large high-density population centers have already proven costly failures, attracting only a miserable fraction of the ridership originally projected: Pittsburgh estimated 80,000 daily riders but got only 28,000; Los Angeles hoped for 74,000 but only 3,000 showed up.

A BRT system shoe-horned into Princeton’s narrow colonial-era streets and dispersed population will fail even more quickly, and the cost of its failure will be counted in lost convenience, increased traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and the reckless destruction of one of Princeton’s most beloved traditions. Powerful interests have quietly aligned themselves against the Dinky. Flyers announcing this Thursday’s all-important Princeton Regional Planning Board meeting have mysteriously disappeared. This may be our best, perhaps our only effective chance to make our voices heard in defense of the Dinky.

Linda Dowling
Harriet Drive

To the Editor:

If the fate of the Dinky is left entirely in the hands of The Princeton Planning Board, we who treasure this little shuttle train may lose it forever with the passing of a resolution to shut it down in favor of a new bus rapid transit system (BRT). As with much of the town planning, we the people have had little opportunity to share in the real decision-making processes of its development since designs and deals are largely in place long before we are made aware of them.

Former mayor Marvin Reed, who now chairs the planning board, has demonstrated in the past his skill for pushing projects through regardless of opposition or public outcry. Remember, in 2002 when the Downtown Redevelopment Project (the parking garage) was presented to the public, it was already so far along in the formulation of plans, selection of developers, and expenditure of tax dollars that it proved impossible to slow down enough for a public weighing in on the most massive, significant change in the history of the town. This sort of ramming through of major projects and changes needs to stop now. It is the responsibility of the citizenry to energetically resolve to protect and preserve the historic, iconic place we live in.

There is no question that Princeton needs better public transportation throughout the town, but bringing in an oversized bus system to our already congested streets is not the solution. There are many possibilities to be considered and the community deserves to have the opportunity to openly discuss options for the future. The only way to ensure that there will be time and opportunity for the process of developing a real solution to public transportation in Princeton is to come together as a strong body in opposition to this passing of the resolution to tear out the Dinky.

At the September 30 meeting show your support of the Dinky by wearing the Princeton orange and black and letting our collective voice be heard. If we don’t stop it together it will be too late.

Dorothy Koehn
Oakland Street

To the Editor:

With the recent work stoppage on the new Hudson River Tunnel we have a real reminder of the tremendous importance that the State of New Jersey has placed on rail for the State’s economic future. For years, in spite of tight finances, New Jersey Transit has shown its belief in the potential economic importance of the Dinky by continuing to support it. Princeton should do whatever it can now to grow its unique connection to the mainline.

Proposals to shorten the Dinky line or asphalt the right-of-way for a BTR (Bus Rapid Transit) have all the appearance of throwing this asset away. With parking at Princeton Junction mostly reserved for West Windsor residents, if we continue to make it hard for Princeton residents to commute we will soon find that commuters no longer choose to reside in Princeton. Without easy train access, we could also find that as congestion increases in central New Jersey our access to various economic and cultural benefits of the New York Corridor will be reduced.

What we need is a parking structure located at the existing Dinky Station. Right now there are approximately 195 parking spaces in the Wawa parking lot, of which about 65 percent are reserved for Princeton University Commuter Parking. Only 24 percent of the spaces are available to the general public. If this parking area were to be tripled with a parking structure it would give the community almost 400 more parking spaces right next to the station. The garage could be further enhanced by an “Easy Pass” system and if the Wawa building could be demolished,with maybe a new Wawa inserted into the garage. This would give us a larger site for structured parking. With ample landscaping, a design could be developed to reduce its massing and respond to the stone construction of the Dinky station. And with some adjustments to the University’s proposed Arts and Transit District Master Plan, it could provide parking in its off-hours for McCarter Theater and the University’s new performing arts center, or even be located under the new center.

The existing, currently full, University parking garage (Lot 7 Garage), which has been proposed by the University for Dinky parking if the station were to be relocated, could continue its existing usage by the University. This new parking garage could be jointly financed by revenue bonds issued by a consortium of the beneficiaries, Princeton Borough, Princeton Township, Princeton University and New Jersey Transit. Once the parking problem for the Dinky has been solved, the idea of developing a newer, quieter rail connection to the Mainline would have a lot of merit. With the new parking garage paying for itself, the Dinky could be providing a significant new revenue stream to NJ Transit. This could eventually help finance a higher tech rail system that would draw more passengers and enhance the Town’s future.

With the Princeton Regional Planning Board expected to take up the University’s proposals this Fall, it is vital that we all communicate our concerns to our elected officials and the Regional Planning Board. In spite of suggestions to the contrary, nothing has been decided — yet.

Kip Cherry, PP, AICP
Dempsey Avenue

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