June 30, 2021

High School Zone Resident Offers Perspective on Permit Parking Plan

To the Editor:

I’m writing as a member of the Permit Parking Task Force who grew up on Jefferson Road and, on semi-retirement, returned to the same neighborhood. Princeton’s Council recently heard the Task Force’s initial recommendations for improving the town’s permit parking regime. The Task Force has recently posted on its website answers to FAQ and a comparison of how the proposed changes would affect each of Princeton’s inner neighborhoods. These documents incorporate modifications of the Task Force’s proposals in response to resident feedback received at that Council meeting. Hopefully, a perusal of the website will help to clear-up the misconceptions on which much of the voiced opposition to the proposals has been premised. Some further refinements of the plan remain under active discussion. (See princetonnj.gov/329/Permit-Parking-Task-Force)

This letter focuses on how the Task Force’s proposal will affect my neighbors in the High School Permit zone. This zone was established to prohibit PHS students from parking on residential streets. However, unlike other central neighborhoods, current regulation also excludes all daytime parking for employees and customers during the academic year. Moreover, unlike those other neighborhoods, High School zone residents receive as many as four daytime permits.

The Task Force’s proposal would:

On the blocks closest to Wiggins Street, allocate a limited number of permits for employees. As in other inner neighborhoods, from 50 to 70 percent of the spaces would remain available for residents, their guests, and contractors subject to a three-hour limit. Given the distance from Nassau Street, there should be little if any use of these spaces by customers.

Would, in lieu of the current permit allocation, allow any resident to purchase one year-round, 24-hour permit, and any number of 24-hour guest permits through a user-friendly, online system.

Some opponents argue that the town, before allowing employees to park on residential streets, should first look to the underutilized, off-street spaces available in garages and lots. The Task Force agrees, but has found significant constraints on accessing these resources on either a free or discounted basis.

Others assert that employers should purchase parking for their employees at private market rates, no matter the cost. I would disagree. Our downtown restauranteurs and merchants struggle to compete with businesses on Route 1 and 206, who benefit from ample free parking and significantly cheaper rents. As a Jefferson Road resident, much of my property value, and (more importantly) my quality of life, derives from my home’s proximity to a vibrant downtown.

The Task Force’s proposal would also extend High School Zone protections and permitting to the streets east of PHS, a number of which now have no restriction on either employee or PHS student parking.

Clearly no plan can be expected to satisfy all interested parties in all respects. However, I’m hopeful that the majority of affected residents share the Tasks Force’s interest in increasing the overall equity and consistency of the current permit parking regime and perceive a common public interest in helping to preserve the commercial vitality of Princeton’s restaurants, cafes, and merchants.

Peter Epstein
Jefferson Road