Princeton Meter Attendants Selectively Enforce Parking Rules, Giving Some Businesses a Pass on Tickets

parking meter
This car was parking in a municipal lot behind Nassau Street Saturday and was never ticketed even though money was never put in the meter. A sticker for Viburnum Florist was in the windshield.

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.

IMG_3402In recent weeks, a resident and an employee at a local business 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.

IMG_3417IMG_3410Planet Princeton followed up on the complaints 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.


























  1. You can add to this the blatant abuse of “loading zones” as all day parking spots, especially on the weekends. I’ve noticed this primarily on Spring and Tulane. These loading zones are rightfully used not only for legitimate loading and unloading to local businesses, but also as loading zones for local residents who are dropping off groceries, etc… When they are blocked all day, it hinders the ability of people who legitimately need to use it. Parking is an issue in this town, anyone who lives here knows that, but the rules should be enforced the same for everyone.

    1. What about the parking buildings providing the merchants with parking cards at a lesser value, so, they could be given to employees during working hours? Wouldn’t that be fair? Of course, the businesses’ owners should pay for the cards not the employees who earn minimum wage.

    1. Wouldn’t recommend it now that the story has run. We suspect that parking regulations will be enforced all of a sudden, at least for a little while.

  2. Good piece. I believe that the town does make special accommodation for business parking, which really surprises me. Last week I was at a municipal meeting where town officials drew up plans to make on-street parking spaces specifically available for a local business. The stated goal was to prevent commuters from using the spaces. I’m not sure that the town should be allocating a scarce public resource for a private good, but on the other hand, supporting local businesses could also be considered to be the town’s responsibility. Who is more entitled to a space- local residents or local businesses?

    I can understand the annoyance-I used to get home every night from work to find that the butcher’s next door to me had put out cones to reserve a piece of street for himself and his employees. I would regularly pick the cones up, put them on the sidewalk and park my car right there, shunning the risk of getting chased with a meat cleaver.

    The bigger problem is that parking in the downtown area is a limited resource, but we all would like to be able to park right next to where we are going, preferably for as long as we like, and preferably without paying for it. That’s not going to work, so it becomes a question of resource allocation and / or growing the pie. We have grown the pie already, by adding a big municipal garage on Spring Street, but when residents directly across the road on Greenview have guests visiting, they don’t want to use the garage, because it costs money.

    My feeling is that we need resident parking permits in Princeton for downtown residents. And for sure, this business of turning a blind eye to illegal parking must stop.

    1. I’ve been working in Philadelphia for years. NO ONE gets any parking favors there. Why should this town, where our taxes are so high, be different? It is possible to buy parking from residents who have driveways if people really need it (shop around).

  3. How about giving some consideration to issuing parking permits for childcare providers who service Princeton based families. My wife has received several citations for parking on Chestnut Street, where there is 2 hour parking (no meters). At times she is unable to leave the children to move her vehicle. I believe San Francisco recently issued nanny parking permits to all nannies working in town. Each nanny had to have their respective family verify that they were in fact employed by that family. I can’t believe that a full-time nanny parking her vehicle on Chestnut Street creates any sense of a traffic condition, especially during daylight hours.

    1. So, I’m not allowed to park on my own street for more than 2 hours, despite being a property owner and without a driveway, but some rich person’s nanny can get a permit to park?

      Your wife’s employer should provide parking or pay her tickets.

  4. I see the frustration of residents in these areas, but I’m also sympathetic to the workers at these businesses. Parking at the Spring St. garage is $1.25 an hour–if you figure that employees at these places make $10/hr, then parking in the garage (which would be the legal, simple alternative to the downtown meters) would eat up more than 10% of their hourly wage. Assuming that this story blows up the informal system that has allowed them to park affordably, I hope the town can come up with a workable formal arrangement.

    1. i am not sure why residents who carry a huge share of the property tax burden, should also carry the burden of providing parking spots for boro merchants, many of whom pay minimum wage to their employees. something does need to be done to provide parking but then shouldn’t the merchants be working with Princeton towards this end.

  5. Hmm. Does anyone really think the 2 meter maids acted on their own? I suspect the policy of allowing local businesses and employees to park for free came from much higher up the food chain, don’t you?

    1. I think that is short-sighted. Personally I think that if they top brass knew of this sooner, it would have been handled before making it to the papers.

      1. Think about it~~~For years the Top Brass has most likely doing the same thing! Bet their wives never get a ticket either!

  6. EXCELLENT REPORTING! I am ashamed of our town police force and municipal government. Time to clean house.

  7. Since when does the police department have supervisory authority over the parking authority? I thought they were separate?

      1. Yes, but according to the article, only one in ten are issued by the police. There wasn’t any mention of police officers doing the same thing. But my comment wasn’t about that. Based up what I’m reading here, it looks like the police department has supervisory authority over these parking officers, but I thought they were part of the parking authority, which is under the supervisor from DPW. The parking garage employees are also in the “parking authority” and their supervisor is from DPW. I’m just a bit confused.

        1. Police Officers get free food all the time look around! Free coffee , pizza, I have seen Top Brass go into DeAngelos! as well as two cops get freebees in Hoagie Haven~~

  8. Finally someone called them out! I know for a fact, as several colleagues worked at these venues, barter system is in place. Free coffee to start your day, free lunch, don’t forget your free jug of beer at the end of your shift.

    1. If any of these colleagues would be willing to talk (we would not use their names at all of course and would give total anonymity to them) we would love to talk to them. We are trying to determine the scope of the problem and who all was involved. We can be reached by phone at 609-375-8920.

      1. Krystal~~since when are you a cop? Didnt you read the papers? The cops are on it~~but they should be investigating themselves as well~~and perhaps the merchants should be investigated and suspended for giving these guys free coffee?? Humm

        1. I am an independent journalist and I am seeking former employees, not current employees. Let the police do their own investigation.

          1. Keep it up, Krystal! This is why we have freedom of the press. Journalists help keep government honest.

          2. Krystal?? Im sure one of these guys nor one of the cops NEVER let you off on a ticket in the past either? yeah right!

    2. I guess you must think then the whole Princeton PD should be called out too as there are many who get their perks at local establishments as well!

  9. Businesses are able to purchase permits from the Trinity lot for their employees at a much reduced rate. Like Alan mentioned below, more options like that would go a long way for the many minimum wage earners in Princeton.

    1. The hospital used to rent out the lot at the Unitarian Church or Princeton. As one reader pointed out in a private message to me, maybe the merchants and town could rent it out and have a shuttle service for employees or have the FreeB stop there.

      1. Note that the FreeB does not run at all hours, whereas restaurant workers do work all hours. I maintain the the FreeB is not adequate to serve minimum-wage workers at all times.

  10. Very bad!!! We need to know how this “arrangement” came about, and what were the terms of it. It is defrauding the town.

  11. I’ve noticed that someone was allowed one of the construction workers (at the apartment complex corner of Robeson/Chambers St) to park on the sidewalk over by the library, thus blocking the bench at the corner of Robeson/Witherspoon where people like to sit. That’s been happening for months. Why does a construction worker get to disrupt our downtown space, whereas if I parked there for even 3 minutes I would get ticketed?

    1. And now, 24 hours after I posted this, the construction folks have erected a temp. chainlink fence where this truck was regularly parking, as if to assert their right to control the area. Although there does not appear to be any dangerous construction going on close to this area at all. And, they placed the fence so far into the street that the crosswalk on the south side of Witherspoon street is now blocked, forcing pedestrians into the street, creating a danger to everyone. Why is there no attention from police on this matter right in the heart of town?

  12. All the more reason to keep our local transportation options up. Letting the dinky get farther from town, not have adequate buses, etc. Those are the real culprits here. It ought to be possible to park at a remote lot cheaply and get shuttled into town.

    1. Agree. The remote lot / shuttle option already exists. Anybody can choose to park at the Princeton Shopping Center and take FreeB into town for free. Contrary to what we often hear, there is actually loads of free parking in Princeton, the problem is that everybody feels entitled to be able to park right next to where they want to go, and not walk 5 or 10 minutes.

  13. Really appreciate the solutions that some of these comments offer. The real problem exposed here is the lack of affordable parking in the boro. If readers are expecting to find out about quid pro quo agreements between our local businesses and the parking attendants in the boro, they are going to be disappointed. This article is very one-sided and offensive to the people who work at the many businesses who provide the goods and services to this community. Parking is a problem in Princeton, and the boro has made their priority clear: build more luxury condominiums and retail spaces without any concern for the people who live and work within it.

    1. you speak with authority regarding the culpability of local businesses in this scam. you might indeed be disappointed yourself to find that the local business owners who residents support thru their patronage are involved. they owe the residents an apology for their illegal use of public space. and they owe their employees a reimbursement for the tickets they will receive now that the jig is up

  14. There is a definite pattern in the Princeton local government….a part-time town administrator getting full time pay employs her unqualified family members, the Chief of police who has been abusive for years is given a nice going way package. These issues are due to an inept mayor and town manager.

  15. I worked in Princeton for over 25 years until recently. Parking has ALWAYS been a problem from day one for resident s as well as businesses, visitors and professionals. Never once have I seen these meter guys be unkind to anyone nor get anything for “Free”~~ if anything they both have been very helpful directing us to a better parking area or letting us know we had better move our cars to a better place! One even got my car unlocked for me! Our group also know alot of Boro Police as that was where we worked and most were kind as well. No once did I or my co-workers ever see anyone of them get anything for free in exchange for parking .no monies. no drinks, no food period. If anything the Police Boro and Twp PD are also guilty of getting a free coffee or a 1/2 price pizza here and there as the Merchants are kind to the employees of town as the as well as Law Enforcement and Ticket guys are kind to the merchants and people who live in this beautiful town to make it a better place for everyone! Its called “working together” to make this Town a better place so others want to visit and shop! Leave the ticket guys alone!

  16. I understand that so many people are frustrated with this seeing how Princeton tickets are so easy to come by.. BUT as a past employee of one of the stores in Princeton, I am honestly happy to hear about this. It is extremely inconvenient to work in Princeton (traffic, parking, etc) and most stores are too cheap to pay for ANYONE’s parking unless you are a manager. So basically, baseline employees make the least and also are expected to pay for parking. And I am positive not everyone working in Princeton makes at least $10 an hour.

    Please put yourself in the shoes of some of these employees and understand that at most other places in NJ, parking is free. It’s not an employee friendly environment at all.

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