Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 47
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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PU Traffic Plan: More Information Needed

Dilshanie Perera

The Regional Planning Board met last Thursday to discuss the impact of Princeton University’s Campus Plan on traffic in the Borough and Township. The University’s travel demand management (TDM) initiatives were highlighted, but the general consensus among community members was that more specific information was needed.

Planning Board consultant Gary Davies highlighted four topics that were revisited during the evening. “There has been concern regarding the amount of new or incremental delay at the intersection complex of Alexander, Mercer, Stockton, and University Place, but at the end of the day, the changes in University activity will only add 40 to 50 new vehicles to that complex, which is less than 1 per minute. The bottom line is, it’s a minimal number,” he said.

Regarding the University’s actions to mitigate traffic impact over time, including improving key intersections at Faculty Road, and Alexander Road and University Place, as well as its TDM program, Mr. Davies recommended “aggressive monitoring and reporting” to oversee such initiatives.

In order to assist with mobility through campus, the University has proposed a wayfinding and signage plan, which includes signs to direct drivers into the appropriate parking lots and garages, as well as a bicycle and pedestrian circulation plan, which Mr. Davies reported he was “in clearance” with, to target people commuting on foot or by bike.

Princeton University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee reported that the University is reducing the number of cars coming to campus in several ways, namely, moving some staff off site to 701 Carnegie Center, and through the travel demand management programs.

“For now, we are focused on the larger picture,” Mr. Durkee said, adding that by 2016, the total student population will be 7,500, and the faculty and staff will be 6,158, which is a three percent increase of the main campus’s 2008 population.

Neil Kittredge of the firm Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners added that the new wayfinding signage system would work to alleviate traffic congestion, and that there is not a one-to-one translation of employees and cars coming to campus everyday.

As for visitors, Mr. Kittredge reported that 730,000 come to campus annually, but that “most arrive at off-peak hours or on weekends” and that in the fiscal year of 2006 to 2007, visitors contributed $37 million to “the economic vitality in the community.”

University traffic consultant George Jacquesmart presented the total number of vehicles entering and exiting the University during the “peak hour” in the morning and evening as 1,759 and 1,512 cars respectively, though according to Mr. Jacquesmart, the “total commuting population” is 5,268.

Reporting that his models showed a 646-second estimated wait per vehicle at the intersection complex of Bayard Lane, Stockton Street, Mercer Street and Alexander Road, Mr. Jacquesmart said that “we don’t believe these models,” since traffic would divert to other routes.

Mr. Kittredge emphasized that these numbers do not take into account the effects of TDM, while Director of Transportation and Parking Kim Jackson estimated that by 2012, the University could reduce the number of vehicles driving to campus to 670.

The travel demand management measures include banning parking for sophomore students on campus, which would open up 250 parking spaces, and reducing the daily commuting vehicles by 420, according to Ms. Jackson. Carpool programs, vanpools, a 50 percent subsidy for mass transit, improved bikeways and walkways, and a better Tiger transit system all fit into such TDM initiatives, she noted.

During the public comment segment of the evening, many residents expressed the need for more information.

Marty Schneiderman, representing the Eastern Campus Neighbors, asked when the University’s peak hour in terms of traffic “coincides with the peak hour in the rest of town.”

“We need the big picture, and we also need individual bits of information,” Mr. Schneiderman said, asking about the impact of traffic on individual neighborhood streets beyond the major intersections. He also wanted to know how many cars were coming in and out of Lot 21, and the number of passengers in the van and carpools, and who was actually using them.

Mr. Durkee said that the University is “ready to have that discussion” and present that information, whenever the community and Board would like.

“As a resident and taxpayer, I can’t get the full picture of what’s happening without getting the total numbers,” Audrey Chen said.

Borough Council member and architect Kevin Wilkes proposed an alternative plan for traffic circulation in the western section of campus, through his design of the Arts and Transit Neighborhood area. “I believe there are serious traffic problems at the intersection of Mercer and Alexander, and this proposal alleviates that major force of traffic moving north-south on Alexander and University Place,” he said.

“In tonight’s meeting, I think we made real progress regarding TDM,” planning Board member Marvin Reed said, while requesting more information about the shift of vehicles from the Western to Eastern side of campus.

Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, who is also a member of the Planning Board, urged the Board to look beyond the 10-year Campus Plan since the roadways and buildings “are going to be there for centuries.” She added, “I hope in these plans there is just one community. It’s just Princeton.”

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