August 29, 2018

Use of Franklin Lot Debated at Meeting Of Princeton Council

By Anne Levin

The temporary future of the open lot on Franklin Avenue was the focus of Princeton Council’s continuing discussion of parking at the Council’s meeting on Monday, August 27. The town’s parking system is being studied and improved, and the governing body has been receiving updates as details are worked out by consultants and staff.

The future of the Franklin lot across from the Avalon Princeton complex is temporary, because the lot has been designated as a future site for affordable housing. Until that time, which could be between one and two years, the spacious lot could be the site of regulated parking, or something else. The property was formerly owned by Princeton University, which donated it to the municipality in 2014 as part of a seven-year agreement on voluntary contributions.

“I want to make it totally clear that we are talking about temporary parking, because this is slated for affordable
housing,” said Mayor Liz Lempert.

Municipal engineer Deanna Stockton explained that the western side of the lot has been used for municipal vehicles since before the University donated the land. The western half has been used for unregulated parking. “Do you want to monetize that?” Stockton asked, adding that the Princeton Public Schools, the Arts Council of Princeton, and the town’s Department of Recreation have all eyed the site for possible use.

Council President Jenny Crumiller advised against turning the site into an official parking lot. “Even if people know it’s temporary, whenever we get rid of it will cause a new parking crunch. So it’s a bad idea,” she said. “And we talk a lot about Princeton being a walkable town. The plan for adding a new parking lot, even if it’s temporary, goes against all of those goals. No long-term good will come of it.”

Crumiller suggested that the town be creative about use of the space, listing a winter ice skating rink, a bike training area, kite-flying, hay bale gardens, a pop-up outdoor yoga studio, a tiny house demonstration area, and temporary parking for special events as possibilities. Councilwoman Leticia Fraga suggested a farmers market.

Councilman Tim Quinn said he would support a parking area with permits instead of meters, available to employees of town businesses through coordination with the Princeton Merchants Association. “We would set the dates, saying when it starts and ends,” he said. “It buys us a little time to think about other potential remote and shuttling options.”

Harris Road resident Monica Adams cautioned Council that Franklin Avenue is a primary walking route to and from Community Park Elementary School. “Traffic on that road is heavy,” she said. “This is where kids walk, all day long. I think that increasing that traffic flow, and there are no speed bumps … I’m asking you to stop and think.”

In another parking issue involving the phasing out of Smart Cards, Council agreed to consider extending the date when the Spring Street Garage stops accepting the card until sometime in April. The town recently posted information saying that use of the cards in the garage would end on December 31, and sooner at meters. Lempert and Crumiller both reported hearing from members of the public who are unhappy with the phase-out and the dates when they have to use up the funds on the cards.