A Simple Fix for Tour Bus Problem: Use NJ Transit Bus Stops in Downtown Princeton

A tour bus idles on Spring street on a Sunday morning in Feb. of 2015. Photo: Krystal Knapp.
A tour bus idles on Spring street on a Sunday morning in Feb. of 2015. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

After months of hand wringing and debate over what to do about the tour buses that come to Princeton and often idle on Nassau Street and side streets, the town has figured out a simple solution to the problem — let the buses use the NJ Transit bus stops.

Last month, various proposals were presented to the Princeton Council to deal with the tour buses, including setting aside four municipal parking meters for them, or having them drop visitors off at one end of town and pick them up at the other end of town.

Councilwoman Jo Butler posed the question last month about whether the buses could use the NJ Transit loading and drop off spots on Nassau Street, and asked the town’s lawyer to look into the issue.

Officials had assumed that the NJ Transit spots were off limits to private bus companies. It turns out they were wrong.

NJ Transit bus stops are not limited to NJ Transit buses and can be used by private carriers to drop off and pick up people.

“The buses are to use the bus stops,” Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday night at the Princeton Council meeting. “Who would have thought we could come up with that?”

The next challenge will be to get the word out to the tour bus drivers that they must drop off and pick up passengers at the NJ Transit bus stops instead of on other parts of Nassau Street. Once buses drop off passengers, they will park on the street across from the Princeton Dinky Station lot on Alexander Street until it is time to pick up the passengers again.

Business Administrator Marc Dashield said the town will come up with a policy for enforcing the new regulations about tour bus parking by the July 13 council meeting.

Most of the tour buses bring people from China to see Princeton University. Some days, about a half a dozen tour buses will be in town. The number of these tour buses visiting Princeton has continued to increase over the last year. Some merchants have hired Mandarin-speaking clerks to serve the tourists.

Officials asked Monday how the town could get the word out to the bus companies about the town’s new parking policies. The buses do not have any connection with Princeton University and passengers do not take part in official tours of the school. Officials said Henry Landau, owner of Landau on Nassau Street, has developed a list that includes many of the companies and they will reach out to him to get a copy of his list.