November 11, 2020

Noting That Witherspoon Street is A Silver Lining in Year of Pandemic

To the Editor:

Witherspoon Street has lately turned into a wonderful corridor for diners and pedestrians. As a local resident who loves spending time downtown, I hope the Princeton Council makes this a real hallmark of the town for years to come.

Removing car lanes is a win for residents, businesses, and out-of-town visitors. It’s about more outdoor dining opportunities, especially with the pandemic. It’s about a town center that fosters community and interaction. In the end, it’s why families move to a place like Princeton, and why so many others come to visit us here.

If the new setup makes life easier for walkers and bikers, it does the same for drivers. A downtown corridor that is more dedicated to people than cars will encourage greater use of the town’s expansive parking facilities. The Chambers, Hulfish, and Spring Street garages are all within a few blocks and — according to a 2017 parking study — rarely hit capacity, even during peak weekend hours.

Right now, too much Princeton traffic is generated by drivers hunting for on-street spots while bypassing the easy-access (and very affordable) garages. I know this because I’ve done it myself.

It’s now clear there are better ways to make Princeton a convenient destination for local and regional customers. We can expand shuttle and bus service into the heart of downtown. We can improve bike access leading into Princeton, and also improve the bike lanes we have inside of it. And why not a campaign to promote and incentivize garage use by providing restaurant deals to those who park there?

In this year of pandemic, the silver linings are precious and few. But the new Witherspoon Street is one of them. And it should continue to inspire new ways of thinking about our downtown experience.

Brian Levinson
Patton Avenue