Rich Stiglic has a parking problem that many of his tree street neighbors in downtown Princeton can relate to.
Each day, employees of local businesses park on his street and take up spaces in front of residents’ homes. From mid-morning to late in the evening, there are often no parking spaces available within a block of his house.
“If my daughter comes for the weekend, her only choice is to park near the library, which is a distance away. It’s not convenient for us,” Stiglic said.
Issues like that prompted Princeton to conduct a parking survey that spanned from March to the end of May. Wednesday, the town held a public forum to announce the results of the survey and the proposed solutions.
“What we’re really focusing on is our central business district to make sure we have the right balance of parking and the correct regulations,” municipal engineer Deanna Stockton said. “Then we need to look at the impact on our residential areas.”
It was clear from the presentation at the forum that those regulations could be streamlined. Ralph DeNisco, a representative from consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard, detailed how Princeton has 28 different kinds of parking spots that vary by cost and time limit, among other things. That may be why parking was listed as by far the number one deterrent from going into downtown Princeton.
The distribution of parking is also an issue. Over half of all on-street parking has a two-hour limit, which makes an extended stay in downtown Princeton inconvenient for those who do not have access to a lot. On the other hand, some residential streets are unregulated and have no time limit for parking, which makes it hard for people to park near their homes.
Some residents are in favor of bringing that two-hour parking limit to their neighborhoods. Lisa Levine, a resident of Maple Street, says that her street’s spaces are constantly full and a time limit would help.
“We’re fine to have (sic) customers and merchants on our street. That makes sense because it’ll be less than two hours,” she said. “That’s all good. There will also be turnover so you have a chance of finding a place if you have a guest coming over.”
Shared parking was floated as another potential solution. Because building new parking spaces is expensive – it can cost roughly $30,000 per space, according to DeNisco – getting the most out of existing parking areas is preferable. That’s why the town wants to expand multi-use spaces.
“One of the things the consultants found is that certain lots are empty after business hours,” Stockton said. “So on weekends, there’s the possibility that if there was an agreement with that property owner, it could be opened up to the public.”
It’s possible that shared parking could extend beyond weekends. Stiglic developed a presentation entitled “Tree Street Parking: A needed change,” which details the issues that he and his fellow residents have with the situation in their neighborhood. Two of the below images are in the presentation. The first is of Maple Street clogged with cars at 10 a.m. on a weekday. The second is of a mostly vacant lot near Small World Café’s Nassau Street location that is nevertheless reserved for employees.
These inefficiencies frustrate Stiglic, who says that he first raised concerns about the parking situation years ago. He and other tree street neighborhood residents have held several one-on-one meetings with Mayor Liz Lempert. Stiglic also assembled a petition signed by roughly 95 percent of his neighbors and talked with local businesses to gain support for change.
“I’m very dissatisfied with the lack of action over the years,” Stiglic said. “It took three years and we’re doing a study.”
More than 1,600 people responded to the survey, a figure that DeNisco said was among the highest he’d ever seen for a town of Princeton’s size. When DeNisco asked who among the roughly 50 meeting attendees took the parking survey, nearly everybody raised their hands.
“We were floored by the number of responses we got. Usually we get around 500,” DeNisco said.
Although DeNisco admitted that there were no “right answers” in parking, he asserted that such issues arose in part because of Princeton’s desirability.
“This (situation) looks classic for an active, vibrant downtown. This is what a successful downtown looks like,” DeNisco said.
The schedule outlined in the public presentation indicated a target date around August or early September for the town to adopt a final parking plan. The results of the survey are expected to be posted online next week, officials said.