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While "Not Perfect," PHS Parking Passes Council Ordinance Review

Matthew Hersh

After an academic year of an experimental parking permit system for roads surrounding Princeton High School, school board members and Borough Council decided to tweak a parking ordinance that is seen by local legislators and residents alike as successful.

And while not perfect, officials conceded that the ordinance should be revisited as driving conditions continue to change in the high school neighborhood.

As such, Council unanimously decided to award the Princeton Regional Board of Education 10 additional parking permits for students. School Board President Anne Burns said the district initially requested 90 permits when the ordinance was first signed into law last year, but received only 60. However, with 10 additional permits added during the school year, the Borough's Tuesday night approval, and the anticipated Township Committee approv-al of 10 extra permits, it is likely that the district will have the 90 permits it had once sought.

Originally designed to control student parking that had absorbed much of the daytime on-street parking on surrounding roads like Moore Street, Jefferson Road, Franklin Avenue, and Hawthorne Avenue, the ordinance has, according to Ms. Burns, "had its moments," and is largely seen as imperfect, but nonetheless improves a parking situation that was in dire need of attention. The permit system stemmed from nearly four years of exploration by an ad hoc committee on high school parking.

"I think anyone who has driven through the neighborhood in the past year will have to say that the effect on the neighbors and the school has been significant."

Ms. Burns added that a large part of any success resulting from the ordinance has come from trying to change a driving culture ‹ one that has students accustomed to door-to-door service.

The ordinance mandates that from September 1 through June 30, except for Saturdays, Sundays, and major holidays, student parking on the aforementioned roads is prohibited, with permit parking available from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Borough portions of Walnut Lane and Guyot Avenue. Residents of the neighborhood are issued residential parking permits for street parking.

Students are also allowed, without permits, to park on Hamilton Avenue. However, in a memo to the members of Council, Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi said that residents of Linden Lane and Hamilton Avenue have complained that not only was the permit system causing spaces to fill up on those roads more quickly, but that students were arriving earlier.

Joshua Leinsdorf, a member of the school board, further criticized the ordinance saying it posed unequal situations for students, particularly for the 20 percent of students living in Cranbury. Mr. Leinsdorf said that if Cranbury students are not successful in receiving a permit through a lottery, they must rely on either being dropped off or taking the bus. The school board member said those students must get on a bus at 6:30 a.m. and get to school early. That time, Mr. Leinsdorf said, could be better used sleeping or studying.

But Beth Healy, a Moore Street resident, said the ordinance has done more good than harm. "I don't mean to say the ordinance is perfect, but the situation has improved immensely." Ms. Healy added that work on the ordinance needs to be done but that "the major problems" have been addressed. "From this point on, it ís a question of making sure that the minor problems are taken care of," she said, referring to the situation on Linden Lane and Hamilton Avenue.

Phyllis Teitelbaum, a member of the parking ad hoc committee, said she supported the idea of increase permits, and pleaded with Council to continue revisiting the ordinance.

"Please make it permanent and trust us to tweak it," she said.

Princeton Township Committee is expected to review its own ordinance for portions of the high school neighborhood streets that lie in the Township at an upcoming session.

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