Planet Princeton

Princeton Council Tables Parking Garage Ordinance

Spring Street Garage Princeton

The governing body for the town of Princeton will study parking meter issues further before adopting new rates and policies for the Spring Street Garage.

Elected officials voted to table an ordinance Tuesday night that would set new rates for the garage. A revised ordinance will be presented in the next few months.

Meanwhile, a new payment system is being installed in the garage, which is the lone garage run by the municipality. The new system could be in place as early as this Thursday or Friday, said Bob Hough, the town’s director of infrastructure and operations.

Council President Bernie Miller, Princeton Public Library Executive Director Leslie Burger, and several residents spoke out against a proposal to eliminate the two free hours of parking library patrons now receive if they get their parking tickets validated at the library. Officials have proposed offering all garage patrons one free hour of parking in the garage instead.

“Those who contributed to the construction of the library were promised by both municipalities that if the library was located at its present location on Witherspoon Street, library card holders would receive two hours of free parking in the garage,” said Miller, whose wife serves on the library board. “That’s the context of where we are today. It needs to be considered when we look at fee structure for the garage.”

Burger said the decision to build the library at the current location was based on offering patrons two free hours of parking. A year after the new library opened, the free parking was suspended because Princeton Borough and Princeton Township could not agree on the subsidy for the parking.

“Library use plummeted,” Burger said. “After 12 months the Borough and Township agreed to provide two hours of parking in perpetuity.”

The lawyer for the town said Tuesday night, however, that under the terms of the agreement, the agreement between the two municipalities could be terminated if a year’s notice was given.

A handful of residents who spoke during public comment said the town would not be keeping its word if officials eliminate the free two hours of parking.

Resident Deborah Thomas said the change would be a “bait and switch” that would benefit affluent users and harm people who can’t afford to pay the parking fees, and that the free two hours is “absolutely essential.”

Some people get their parking tickets validated even though they are not using the library. For example, some people doing business downtown get their tickets validated, sometimes more than once in a day.

“The world is full of cheaters,” Thomas said. “Perhaps a fix is not possible, but perhaps a validation machine could be put in a special location that could be accessed only by people using library cards, with some sort of optical scanner.”

Officials could revisit the parking garage ordinance as early as next month.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • MathMathMath

    I am wondering if there is any data on how many garage users take advantage of the free two-hour parking. Is it a huge percentage or a tiny one? And how many of those people are there for more than an hour? I am curious because the agenda for the meeting (I wasn’t at the meeting itself) says the ordinance was to reduce free parking to one hour, not eliminate it entirely.

    If the garage needs more revenue, perhaps the problem is reining in the cheater who repeatedly validates their card for free day-long parking. Maybe the library should limit patrons to one two-hour parking session a day (with a special token or magnetic-card swipe, perhaps), or more stringently enforce the library-card-holder-only or resident-only rule.

    If there is no data available, the council should probably ask that the new payment system track the information somehow, so that an informed decision can be made.

  • Stephen Schenck

    It continues to be wildly unfair that motorcycles aren’t allowed to take advantage of the free garage parking.

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