Keep Selection, Use of Streets in Any New Parking Plan Fair and Equitable
To the Editor:
I applaud the really hard work of Princeton Council, board, and commission members. They are tackling the difficult issues of Princeton’s future. Street parking rules is the topic of the day. We are hearing a lot of attacks on the Parking Task Force’s proposal to change parking rules on municipality streets, but we are not considering that two other issues make some change necessary.
Bicycling is an activity that Princetonians of all ages enjoy or rely on. It is not my activity of choice, but it is a healthy part of town life, and no town the size of Princeton can claim to be safe, environmentally conscious, or progressive without building bicycle lanes into the infrastructure. A casual walk down Wiggins or Hamilton Streets will show the tension between cyclists and speeding cars, despite narrow, painted bike lanes, or the tension between the less brave cyclists and pedestrians on the narrow sidewalks. Hamilton-Wiggins is an important artery that cyclists should have safe access to — there is no other through street between Nassau Street and Valley Road. It needs protected bike lanes, and why not some traffic calming features. But this requires the removal of parking.
The second issue is the reimagined Witherspoon Street. A central one-way, pedestrian-friendly street with space for outdoor dining and the ability to close it for festivals is nice, but requires the removal of prime parking spots. The traffic flow issues that result from this plan may also make drivers’ search for other available downtown parking spots more difficult.
So now we come to the need to find parking for the losses in the central business district. (I am keeping high school parking out of this discussion because it is a more vexing issue with taxpayer-provided buses.) The Parking Task Force has come up with the outline of a solution for expanding parking on the streets just outside of the central business district to serve employees, shoppers, and residents. Of course, there would be more cars parked on “these” streets instead of “those” streets; there would be increased cost for residents who want to park in front of their homes for extended periods, but they would finally be able to park overnight; and enforcement would have to work to keep this broadened, unmetered system contained and equitable. We can pick at the details, but we must do something about parking unless we can justify ignoring the rights and safety of cyclists and unless we are willing to reverse course on reimagining Witherspoon Street.
I applaud the parking commission for bravely touching the “third rail” of Princeton planning by including parts of the Western Section in the plans, and members have definitely heard about that. This is a plan that will necessarily affect some areas more than others, but let’s avoid privilege and keep the selection and use of streets in any new plan fair and equitable.