June 23, 2021

Writing in Response to Princeton’s Proposed Permit Parking Plan

To the Editor:

Part 1:

The Permit Parking proposal (sensiblestreets.org) is a show-stopper. Let’s check the details.

The first “Guiding Principle” asks residents to “Share available on-street parking resources equitably between residents, customers of neighborhood businesses, visitors, and employees (italics mine).

Analysis: 1)There are no “neighborhood businesses” beyond the streets of what’s now “downtown.” Businesses are not permitted on residential streets, which are residential: R-1, R-2, etc. 2) The only possible purpose for euphemisms is to confuse opposition to commuter-clogging, accident-inducing, bicycle-and-tree-unfriendly cars. Why have residential streets at all?

Next: Princeton will “Adapt (sic: “adopt”?) general rules to meet the needs of individual streets without overcomplicating the system.” It’s too complicated now. Separate the needs of streets from those of retail. These are different questions (see Part 2, below).

The final Guiding Principle: “Use latest technology to benefit all users of parking as well as simplify municipal paperwork, and enforcement.” Here I had to parse even the punctuation: it says the Plan will “simplify … enforcement.” How? Municipal records of license plates? Street corner cameras? Don’t we deride such “enforcement” tech in China? Would you put it in Princeton?

Princeton once had a borough and a township, a.k.a., a commercial center with a ring of supportive customers, a “donut hole” for business. But “one Princeton” is increasingly two communities pretending to be one: reclusive large lots surrounding increasingly packed, traffic-ridden, unsafe-for-bikes-and-schoolchildren “residential” streets — a transfer of roles. Those who live on smaller inner-ring lots are now scolded for not wanting to “share.”

Part 2:

Let’s finally declare the much-debated exclusively pedestrian area on commercial Nassau. Not the few crammed blocks of Communiversity, but a reasonable stretch. Electric shuttles every 10 minutes from all those under-utilized parking lots. Clear signage. Charge for parking, not for the shuttle.

How about a straightforward solution: parking, business access, no pollution. Bike lanes. Outdoor dining. No frustrating wait at Vandeventer. No cars making potholes between Nassau and Robeson. Downtown as a pedestrian haven, a genuine tourist attraction, and relaxed customers.

A greater variety of merchants licensed? Special events? Food trucks? Farmers Market? No more “boring” downtown for University students? Honest encouragement to small startup businesses crowded out by high rents? All with no invasion of — let’s admit it — the main attraction: Princeton’s quiet residential streets.

Surface transit should be easy enough to develop. Just ensure a reliable schedule: analysis of Tiger Transit, Public Service, and Marvin van usage would get us started.

Princeton wouldn’t be the first town to replace parking meters with pedestrians. Check out San Francisco’s Embarcadero. It took an earthquake to change things there. For us, it’s a natural.

But to object that the state runs Routes 27 and 206, and claim that “the state will never do it!”— never say, “Never!”

Press for a better plan: No cars. Paths for bikes and pedestrians.

There’s no better time than now.

Mary Clurman
Harris Road