April 10, 2019

Princeton Merchant Association Survey Shows New Parking Plan’s Negative Impact

To the Editor:

Our PMA survey results (posted on our website) and public feedback shows the new parking plan has not been well received by residents, customers, visitors, or employees, and has had a chillingly negative impact on the businesses in town through the holiday season and the first several months of 2019. Our town Council and professionals, on the advice of consultants, believe that there is not a shortage of parking spaces and may be pleased to hear that parking is freeing up, but the fact is, fewer people are coming to our downtown to shop. Our shopkeepers are struggling to keep their businesses open and commercial properties, which account for 20-plus percent of our town’s tax base, are experiencing the highest vacancy rates in decades.

In collectively reviewing the current parking plan, we want to propose a set of improvements that would honor the intent of the new plan, as articulated by Mayor Lempert, to serve first and foremost as a tool for economic development of Princeton’s vital downtown.

Revise Parking Rates:
1st hr. — $1.50; 2nd hr. — $1.75; 3rd hr — $2

In comparison to similar towns:
Summit $1/hr.; Red Bank $1.50/hr.; Morristown $1/hr.; Westfield $1/2hr.

We fully recognize the importance of any fixes to the new system being budget-neutral and suggest the following to offset any shortfall:

Add a third hour @ $2.25 to the existing two-hour meters. The third hour is essential so customers don’t need to choose between a meal and shopping. The progressive structure incentivizes turn-over, an ambition of the parking overhaul for the downtown.

Raise the 10hr meters from $.75 to $1 an hour.

Begin metered parking at 8 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.

Raise the Dinky daily parking from $4 to $5/day.

Charge tour buses parked in town a fee commiserate to other regional tourist destinations (while you’re at it, maybe charge idling buses an environmental surcharge).

Revisit the loading zones to make them both business-, and, during off-hours, customer-friendly by installing 30-minute meters: the timing for metered parking in loading zones may need to be site-specific and can be longer in some places than in others (we welcome the fact the town has begun looking into this change).

Increase capital expenditure account from existing parking revenues (est. $1m-plus annual) to offset parking meter improvements.

Create additional public proximity parking infrastructure with decks, lots and/or on-street parking. There is no doubt, we have a parking shortage.

Permitted employee parking:
Create permitted employee parking in walking distance as part of the current phase of revisions to the overall parking plan.

Bike Lanes:
Do not convert our limited and scarce free parking to bike-lanes: this does little to change the nature of the bike ride into town and it artificially pits the business community against environmentalists.

We welcome the April 15 work session at One Monument and urge mayor and Council to realign the parking plan to encourage true economic development in our community. 

Jessica Durrie, Joanne Farrugia, Jon Lambert, Mimi Omiecinski, Cliff Simms, Dean Smith, Dorothea von Moltke, Lori Rabon and Jack Morrison
On behalf of the members of the Princeton Merchant Association