December 15, 2021

Latest Parking Proposal Still Not Right For Residential Neighborhoods

To the Editor:

Despite changes, the Permit Parking Task Force unfortunately still recommends employee parking permits in several residential neighborhoods.

Consider the neighborhood between Princeton, Murray, Prospect, and Nassau avenues, grouped arbitrarily with the Tree streets (Linden, Pine, Maple, Chestnut etc.). Residences will be able to buy up to two 7×24 parking spots for $240/year combined if they lack sufficient driveways. Local businesses get 50 percent of unused spots at $30/mo./spot.

These neighborhoods have markedly different traffic, density, building types — and zoning! Yet the plan damages both neighborhoods.

The Tree streets are densely zoned, with smaller houses and duplexes, many with limited off-street parking, and designed for in-town walkable living. They have commensurately lower house prices and property taxes, offering a foothold for new and old. In contrast, the Princeton/Murray area is the border of the low-density “green” neighborhoods to the south. It has historically buffered residences from encroachment by businesses and Princeton University. Houses have gardens and long driveways. Princeton Avenue is a showcase street down which Christmas trolleys take sightseers to “illustrate” a green neighborhood in harmony with downtown. Parades start on this street.

In the Tree streets, the plan radically incentivizes two car ownership by guaranteeing two spots per residence; for those lacking, the town will provide public asphalt at a fraction of the taxes paid by others on their garages. It pulls cars currently housed elsewhere and in the small private lots back onto the streets. It reduces turnover of existing spaces with all-day employee parking. It paints a target on the area attracting outward-commuting families and developers. Any one-time windfalls for some will rapidly be outpaced by reduced affordability for everyone else (cue “affordable housing” and tax battles).

While increasing existing residential demand, the plan simultaneously sucks new in-bound commuters into both neighborhoods. The $1/day all-day parking, compared to high rates and time limits in town, are massive incentives for existing and newly enticed employees to commute.

As Princeton/Murray area houses have sufficient driveways, the plan summarily transfers 50 percent of street parking to locally connected businesses. New demand and overflow will swamp this area. Traffic will flow on feeder streets all day long as shifts change. There are no benefits for owners and property values will go down.

In short, the plan exports the parking problems of downtown to residential areas. It will increase internal demand in the dense Tree streets, and inject further problems into the low-density Princeton/Murray neighborhood. It confiscates private and public property value in both neighborhoods for the benefit of local business owners, out-of-town commuters, and developers hell-bent on expanding downtown.

We appreciate the Task Force has good intentions. However, if approved, the plan will directly contravene the town’s commitments to reducing cars, improving bicycling/walkability, maintaining affordability, and the promises made during consolidation to protect distinct neighborhoods and property values near downtown against relentless growth.

In particular, employee permit parking on any residential street is a bad idea. Council and task force should reject it once and for all.

Frans Coetzee
Princeton Avenue

Catherine Hegedus
Murray Place

Jennifer Geoghan
Aiken Avenue

Peter Aurup
Princeton Avenue