December 6, 2017

Parking Strategies for Downtown Explored at Princeton Future Meeting

By Anne Levin

Concerns about the continuing problem of parking in Princeton brought residents to a forum held by Princeton Future last Saturday, at Princeton Public Library. The gathering was the latest in a series of discussions on the issue, specifically related to a municipal parking study Princeton Council will consider adopting at a coming meeting.

“Especially for a Saturday in December, it was a very well-attended meeting,” said architect Kevin Wilkes, Princeton Future president and a former member of Borough Council. “A lot of residents are very concerned about the impacts of proposals in the study about permits for residents for overnight parking, and for those who have either no driveway or a space for one car. The proposal has specific recommendations for those cases, so there was lively discussion about that.”

The transportation planning firm Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates prepared the parking study for the municipality, which is seeking new solutions to downtown parking and circulation “with the goal of maintaining the economic diversity, vibrancy, quality of life, and character of the town,” according to the municipal website. Topics of the study include parking management, time limits, pricing, and enforcement; future parking needs; parking for commuter rail users; impacts of residential neighborhoods adjacent to the downtown business district; and bicycling, walking, and way-finding opportunities.

Nelson/Nygaard has solicited community input at presentations over the past few months. The latest was held November 20 at The Nassau inn.

The Princeton Future event was designed to explore several aspects of the study. Parking strategies used in Rahway and Metuchen, specifically related to redevelopment, were a topic of discussion.

Among the determinations of the study is that only 50 percent of the parking spaces available in the downtown are in use. “We have 7,000 parking spaces and at the two times of highest demand — Thursdays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays at 7 p.m. — we are only using half of them,” Wilkes said. “People just don’t know where all those spaces are. We don’t have ready access to them, and we don’t have the ability to communicate where they are and how much they cost. One of the conclusions of the report is that we don’t need to build more, we need to better manage the parking inventory we have. Everyone in the room seemed to appreciate that fact, and probably heaved a sigh of relief.”

Several residents of Princeton’s “tree streets,” where parking is especially limited, were in attendance. That neighborhood is part of the study.

There was general agreement at the meeting on the idea of a standardized, systemized method for giving out parking permits across the community. “There were some disagreements about fees that would be charged, over whether they were the right fees. And that’s clearly understandable,” Wilkes said. “It is for Council to make a decision, some day, on what the fees should be.”

Council was originally planning to vote on whether to approve the parking study at its upcoming meeting on December 11, but it is now tentatively scheduled for January 22. Implementation of the study would require ordinance changes.