Permit Parking Task Force to Consider Suggestions and Revisit Parking Plan
By Anne Levin
A work session led by the Permit Parking Task Force at a meeting of Princeton Council Monday evening, May 24, drew numerous expressions of concern, particularly from residents of the Western Section, one of several neighborhoods where regulatory changes are recommended.
The task force, which has been working on the issue for the past two years, recently held its first meeting with the Western Section residents. The group’s initial focus was on the Witherspoon-Jackson and Tree Streets neighborhoods, where parking is especially tight.
The goal is to offer parking for essential workers in Princeton’s commercial areas, and to harmonize different parking rules from the pre-consolidation days, when Princeton was divided into Township and Borough. The plan strives to assure that residents with no driveway, or limited driveway, will have priority to purchase on-street parking permits allowing 24-hour parking, which is currently unavailable in most zones, for $10 a month. Those who are economically disadvantaged could have free permits. Another goal is to make overnight parking, currently unavailable in most zones, available to all residents and guests.
Councilman David Cohen, who is on the task force along with Council President Leticia Fraga, Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, some residents, and representatives from local businesses, said that if given the go-ahead to proceed, the next step would be to enter an agreement with the vendor Passport, which would provide license plate reading technology mounted on enforcement vehicles and online applications for permits.
But after hearing comments from the public, it was decided that the task force will hold more meetings with neighbors and revisit the multi-pronged plan. Some of those who spoke questioned the need for the proposal. Others who live in the Western Section said they were not given enough notice of the plan.
“Why wasn’t I given formal notice, and how many other people weren’t, and perhaps do not know about this proposal?” asked a resident of Hodge Road. “I kind of feel like it violates my due process. I feel I deserve information regarding data, proof of need, and data supporting the need.” She added, “The proposal to put parking on Hodge Road is, respectfully submitted, ludicrous. You might as well put it on [Route] 206 because that’s what it will be like.”
Asked by Mayor Mark Freda whether there is a legal requirement to provide notice of neighborhood meetings, Municipal Attorney Trishka Cecil said there was not. “It’s up to the task force for getting the word out,” she said. Informal notice was provided on social media and on the municipality’s newsletter, for which the public can sign up.
Former Councilwoman and Western Section resident Jenny Crumiller said she worried that the plan does not address sustainability. “Keep in mind that this proposal increases parking ability, and that affects sustainability,” she said.
Some questioned whether the task force had considered building a new parking garage instead of requiring some residents and businesses to pay for permits. “I fear we’re moving away from sustainability,” said a woman who lives on Mt. Lucas Road. “A parking garage is probably the best way to go for long-term planning. Has the task force looked at that?”
Cohen replied, “The most sustainable thing you can do is look at something that has already been built rather than building something new.” Lambros commented that building a new parking garage would cost more than $10 million.
Local resident Tony Lunn cautioned the task force “not to be seduced by a clever technology of LPR [license plate reading]. It will be necessary to check each street at least three times a day,” he said. “If you don’t do that, it won’t work.” He also urged the town to provide a telephone alternative to online bookings. “Some of the people on the streets in question are over 70, even over 90, and not adept.”
One aspect of the plan would involve relocating 12 two-hour parking spots and about 49 all-day spots in the Hamilton-Wiggins corridor, should the town decide to install bike lanes on that roadway.
Anita Garoniak, of Harris Road, said that a petition that was circulated after the recent meeting with Western Section residents had 119 signers opposed to the plan. “This is our town. We want to feel we’re being listened to. We feel we’re being told,” said Garoniak.
Another resident said he would like to explore an option that doesn’t include an increase of manpower to enforce the plan. “Please give the task force more time to get this really right,” he said.
Details of the plan are in the task force’s report, which can be found within the meeting agenda on princetonnj.gov.