October 21, 2020

Council Hears Updates On Transportation Topics At Special Meeting

By Anne Levin

Presentations on initiatives related to transportation were the focus of a special Princeton Council meeting held Monday evening, October 19. Mayor Liz Lempert began the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Marvin Reed, a former mayor of Princeton Borough, who died on October 12 at age 89.

“One of Marvin’s major passions was transportation, so I think he’d be glad we’re continuing his legacy tonight,” she said. “Both of the FreeB buses are named after him because of his dedication and advocacy to public transit.”

Councilwoman Mia Sacks reported that the two existing FreeB vehicles have been retired due to wear and tear and excessive needs for maintenance. Going forward, the town is looking to a lease option instead of ownership, hopefully with a focus on hybrid and/or electric vehicles. “We’re also finalizing a proposal to the Transit Trust Fund to expand existing FreeB routes, to better connect the new Affordable Housing sites that will be coming on line,” she said.

Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton told Council that the Engineering Department has been working with the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Police Department to determine the best type of pavement markings and signage along the Bike Boulevard routes. The aim is to have consistent, clear markings that will be put in place in the spring once budgets have been approved.

Council President David Cohen updated Council on the Bike Map Project, reporting that a third printing of the map that was created about a decade ago shows not only bike routes but locations for bike parking. Copies are available at bike shops, and will be placed in the lower lobby of the police department headquarters in the municipal building. They are also available on the municipal website.

Council voted to introduce an ordinance on bike parking. Cohen said the ordinance was important because of residential developments that are planned in conjunction with the town’s Affordable Housing obligation. “It’s a topic that comes up at every single Planning meeting,” he said. “The Planning Board will be in a much better place, being able to point to actual requirements rather than asking [developers] to do us a favor.”

Should a developer be unable to supply the parking, they can make a contribution instead, Cohen added. The ordinance lists between $500 and $1,000 to do so.

Referencing a study of NJ Transit’s service on the Dinky train that connects Princeton to Princeton Junction on the Northeast Corridor Line, Sacks said NJ Transit is planning to make some major changes on the technology of the train cars it uses. Keeping the Dinky operating is a priority, and it has been made clear to NJ Transit that the municipality wants to be involved in the process going forward. “We feel confident that we’ll be kept in the loop on a bimonthly basis,” she said, adding that the agency is currently occupied with the effects of the pandemic.

Regarding a switch to electric vehicles, Stockton said the state of New Jersey is developing a “tool kit” in the next few months. While a draft ordinance has been created through work with Sustainable Princeton, the town will wait to see what develops on a state level.

Councilwoman Leticia Fraga spoke about the Permit Parking Task Force, saying a lot of research and leg work is already in progress. The group has been counting available parking spaces and taking note of residences that have no driveway or restricted driveways as a pilot program proposal is developed.

“We have already identified a provider with the technology,” she said. “And since it would be a pilot program, it would be of no cost to us.” The program would be a license plate reader specifically for employee permits. Meetings with residents of the town’s “tree streets” and Bank Street are being planned, following which a proposal for a permit parking system would be drafted. Fraga added that since overnight parking has been permitted during the pandemic, it has to be decided whether or not that should be permanent.

Additional  projects discussed include current work on Paul Robeson Place, Wiggins Street, and Hamilton Avenue. Stockton reported on the Witherspoon Street Project and updated Council on draft design guidelines on the King’s Highway Historic District, which covers the portions of Routes 206 and 27 that connect Lawrenceville with Kingston. There was an update on the Nassau Streetscape, during which Stockton said the town is working to finalize a planting project that would be in front of businesses from Witherspoon Street to Vandeventer Avenue.

Two resolutions were passed. One concerns removal of the taxi stand in front of Princeton University’s FitzRandolph Gate, which would allow for seven parking spots. The other is for removal of the NJ Transit bus stop on Nassau Street near Witherspoon Street, and installation of a new bus shelter and bike parking on Nassau Street near South Tulane Street. Both resolutions need to go before the New Jersey Department of Transportation for approval.

The bridges on Washington Street over Lake Carnegie and the D&R Canal towpath will need replacement in the future. “It’s coming, but not imminent,” said Stockton.

Other topics included the town’s street light policy, and the Bicycle Advisory Committee’s efforts to focus on pedestrians as well as cyclists. Council voted to introduce an ordinance on the committee, and a public hearing on the measure will be held November 9. A presentation on Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries, was given by Jerry Foster and Lisa Serieyssol.

Though not specifically related to transportation issues, Council approved a resolution appointing the Franklin Avenue Development Task Force. Council representatives Cohen, Sacks, and Michelle Pirone Lambros are joined by eight members of the public including Elizabeth Bromley, Harold Heft, Heidi Fichtenbaum, Joel Schwartz, and four others.