If you want to get out of receiving a parking ticket in Princeton, try putting a menu from Olives or D’Angelo’s Italian Market on your dashboard. Or a bar coaster from Triumph Brewery. Or a Starbucks Coffee sticker.
That is the system that appears to have been worked out between the meter enforcement attendants who work for the Princeton parking authority and business owners and employees at several local eateries and shops.
In recent weeks, residents and employees at several businesses have contacted Planet Princeton to complain that they see some business owners and employees parking on a daily basis at expired meters or parking all day in spaces with a two-hour limit — without ever getting a ticket.
Ordinarily the town’s meter attendants are aggressive about enforcing parking violations, as anyone else who has left a car at a meter probably knows.
Planet Princeton followed up on the complaints over the last several weeks and observed some business owners and employees repeatedly parking in municipal lots and on streets like Witherspoon Street, Nassau Street, Moore Street, Humbert Street and Greenview Avenue without ever getting a ticket, even though there was no money in the meter or the car was parked in a two-hour spot for eight to ten hours. Most of the drivers leave some sort of symbol on the dashboard. A resident even called police to complain about cars parked all day on her street and the cars still were not ticketed.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, more than 16 cars belonging to employees of local food businesses were parked along Humbert Street and Greenview Avenue all day. Each one had a menu, a business card, a bar coaster, or a shopping bag on the dashboard to indicate the cars belonged to employees of local businesses. Those cars comprised more than 80 percent of the vehicles parked on the streets.
The situation is frustrating to residents, who have no place for their own guests to park. When there are spaces, their guests are routinely slapped with a parking ticket if they stay too long.
“It’s not fair to residents, especially given the taxes we pay,” said one resident, who expressed sympathy for employees, but said the town and merchants must find another solution to the parking issue that is equitable to everyone. residents also question whether there is a quid pro quo. In other words are the meter attendants receiving anything in exchange for not writing tickets?
Some residents have called the police department to complain, and have been told there was nothing the police could do. They were told the town does not have the manpower to enforce parking, or were told someone would call back. One resident called the police dispatch at least three times to complain. Officers did not come out to the street and no one called the resident back.
Contacted about the issue today, town administrator Bob Bruschi said there is an active investigation regarding the issue. He said he was not aware of problems on Humbert Street and Greenview Avenue.
“If an employee has done some something, we will take it very seriously from our end,” he said.
More than 90 percent of the parking enforcement is done by the two meter attendants. The other ten percent is done by police, Bruschi said, adding that any business owner or resident who has a complaint should feel comfortable contacting the town about it.