December 9, 2020

Permit Parking Task Force Presenting Draft Proposals for Neighborhoods

By Anne Levin

For the past two years, Princeton’s Permit Parking Task Force has been working to develop a system of parking that is fairer and more efficient than the one currently in place. A virtual meeting was held Tuesday evening (after press time) to introduce residents of Princeton’s “tree streets,” their neighbors on the other side of Nassau Street, and proprietors of businesses on that thoroughfare to a proposal for a short-term pilot program.

Future meetings will focus on the Witherspoon-Jackson and Bank Street neighborhoods, where on-street parking is also at a premium. A focus of the proposal is the utilization of new technology, specifically a license plate recognition system that will make parking regulations easier to enforce. The town has been given a three-month free trial to test out the technology.

“Obviously, parking has been less of a problem during COVID,” said Princeton Council President David Cohen, a member of the task force, on Monday. “The University hasn’t been around, and businesses have limitations put on them, so on-street parking has not been in such hot demand. But this committee has been working for two years on the initiative, and we wanted to be able to test out the license plate recognition software and get something in place.”

The proposal calls for permits to be provided to car-owning residents in the tree streets neighborhood who have no driveway. In addition, as the number of available street spaces can accommodate, there would be permits for residents with restricted parking — in a driveway with no room for turnaround, or for safely opening doors. There would be two- to three-hour parking permitted during the day. In all three neighborhoods, overnight parking would be allowed without a permit.

“A very important part of the program is that we’re looking at getting rid of overnight restrictions in these neighborhoods,” Cohen said. “This is really important for the plenty of residents who might have a driveway, but have two cars, and it’s a real pain to stack the cars. Being able to park overnight can really be helpful for people who otherwise would not be able to get a [second] permit, because they are only eligible for one.”

The draft proposal also focuses on shared customer and employee parking, with employee permits allocated through employers. Each permit would be either for shared on-street parking with residents on a specified block, or in a public lot. In the tree street and Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhoods, there would be short-term parking for customers and residential visitors, with a two- or three-hour limit. On Bank Street, where the residential units outnumber available on-street parking spaces, residential permits would only be issued to those with no driveway.

Specific details of the proposal vary. In some sections, different options are presented. One of the task force’s goals is to harmonize rules left over from before consolidation, when the former Borough and Township had different parking regulations. During the pilot program’s three-month trial, the demand for permits and the use of on-street spaces will be monitored and evaluated. Assuming positive expectations are met, permits will be automatically extended to the end of 2021, with or without some adjustment in the eligibility and other provisions going forward.

“The big reason for doing it is that with our current regime, parking spaces are terribly managed,” said Cohen. “This is a way to really make our permit parking so much more efficient.”