December 5, 2018

Smart Card Reversal, Dinky Service Report Among Council Topics

By Anne Levin

Responding to concerns from the public, Princeton will allow people who have balances on their smart cards to transfer them to the new Park Princeton app after April 30. Mayor Liz Lempert announced the revised plan, part of the municipality’s revamping of the parking system, at the Princeton Council meeting on Monday night, December 3.

“Sometimes Council makes a decision and it’s the wrong decision, and we reverse course,” she said. “That is what happened with this. At one point we said we weren’t going to refund the smart card balances. We changed course when we heard feedback from the community. We are working on a plan to transfer the balances.”

Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton said those with balances on their smart cards are still urged to spend them in the Spring Street Garage, next to Princeton Public Library, by April 30. But those who still have balances on their cards after that date will be permitted to transfer the amount to the new app. A 10 percent administrative fee will be charged.

Councilwoman Leticia Fraga asked Stockton if those adding money to a meter through the Park Princeton app would be charged a second service fee. Stockton said the second charge is made only for a new parking session, but not if they are adding time.

Not everything has gone smoothly as the new parking system has been unveiled. There have been some delays in installation. People have reported difficulties in reading the meters and inserting change. Rates are higher than in the past, and those who use the Park Princeton app are charged 35 cents each time they use it.

Smart card balances must be read at Witherspoon Hall before transfers can be made. “This is a manual process, so cardholders will have to present their card for balances to be read, and then put into a wallet on the Park Princeton app,” Stockton said. “As we get closer to April of next year, we will put out more details for everyone. Keep an eye on the municipal website and social media.”

Dinky Service

Lempert reported that she and Assemblymen Roy Freiman and Daniel R. Benson recently met at Benson’s office with representatives of NJ Transit regarding the status of the Dinky train service, which runs between Princeton and Princeton Junction and has been suspended since October and replaced by buses. NJ Transit put the two train cars on hiatus while installing the federally mandated Positive Train Control in other parts of the system. The projected date for reinstating the service was January 15.

Asked to reinstate the train line immediately because of commuters’ complaints about the bus service, the representatives said that was not possible because of labor contracts, among other reasons. “We told them about specific complaints with the bus service, and they were more amenable with [correcting] that,” she said.

Among commuters’ biggest complaints was that unlike with the trains, bus drivers were not allowing them to wait aboard the vehicles before departure. Passengers will now be permitted to wait on the buses. Drivers will also be instructed to wait for the trains which might be late before leaving Princeton Junction to drive back to Princeton.

Lempert said she is optimistic that the Dinky will be back in service sometime next month, but no exact date has been given. “I’ve told them you can’t replace having a dedicated right of way with a bus,” she said. “I think they understand. They have major problems system-wide. The good news is that it appears that while they can’t make any promises, they have been making steady progress on installing the Positive Train Control. Things are moving, or at least they seem to be.”

Bridge Replacement Projects

Stockton reported that the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and Mercer County will host a public information session on Wednesday, December 19, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Monument Hall, regarding bridge replacements scheduled to be made on Alexander Street.

The NJDOT will be replacing the bridge that spans the D&R Canal, and Mercer County will be replacing two bridge structures north of the canal. Work is to start early next year.

Staff from both the NJDOT and Mercer County will be available December 19 to talk about the project, detours, and other impacts. Stockton said it is estimated that the project will start in the coming summer and be completed around May of 2020.

New Appointment

Delores A. Williams, Princeton’s current assistant municipal clerk, was named municipal clerk to replace Kathleen K. Brzezynski, who is retiring. “Everyone is really happy and thankful that such a competent person was waiting in the wings,” said Council President Jenny Crumiller, as members of Council applauded the announcement.

The next meeting of Council is scheduled for December 17 at 7 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall.