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Council president responds to criticism about Princeton parking meter changes

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To the Editor of Planet Princeton:

As the Princeton Council president, but speaking only for myself, I would like to provide some explanation for the problems with the new downtown parking system and to respond to some of the issues that have been raised in letters and in comments on this website and on social media.  

The new parking meter rollout has been a rocky road, and I want to assure residents and visitors that the municipality is working to fix problems and that we will consider adjustments at our Jan. 14 Council meeting (7 p.m. at 400 Witherspoon Street).

Firstly I want to address the criticism that decisions were made without public input.  The fact is that decisions around parking were made in public meetings with multiple chances for residents and stakeholders to participate. The implementation of consultant recommendations was discussed at 10 council meetings. In addition, the mayor and council members met with members of the business community to discuss the parking changes at six meetings. Those meetings were in addition to regular monthly economic development committee meetings, where parking was on the agenda between March and November.

It’s clear that even the most robust public engagement campaigns don’t reach everyone and that the changes took many by surprise. This was not council’s intent.  Going forward, residents can find up to date parking information on the municipal website’s parking operation page and our social media accounts.

I’ve also been hearing that it seems as though the council did not have goals and there was no rationale for the changes. But when we embarked on the process in 2016, the council had clear goals, chief among them enhancing the economic vibrancy of downtown. In short, we wanted to: 1) update parking technology to make paying for parking easier, because the parking infrastructure and existing Smart Card technology was near its expiration 2) adjust timing and pricing to optimize availability for the benefit of residents and visitors patronizing downtown, and 3) realize additional non-tax revenue to pay for the parking infrastructure and to supplement the general budget to pay for improvements to roads and sidewalks with non-tax revenue.

Also, some believe the placement of short and long-term meters was done arbitrarily without considering the interest of businesses.  The reality is that the placement and timing of meters was done according to the locations of current retail establishments.  However, we are open to making changes if we didn’t get it right.  At our next meeting, we are voting on adjustments to the meters on Witherspoon Street below the Arts Council from short term to all-day meters.  We are working with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Nassau Street, to make changes on that street.

As for the policy decision about meter hours and the grace period, we adjusted meter hours to make them more uniform and to conform to the hours of businesses.  The decision to charge for parking on Sundays was made in 2009, and the council did not see a reason to revisit that decision. The old Princeton parking meters included a short grace period at the end of a parking session, which was implemented by a previous administrator and was not codified in municipal ordinances. Since it was not universally known by residents and was not publicized to visitors, the grace period was not included in the parking ordinance recently adopted by the council. I do not favor grace periods such as these because they reward non-compliance and they are basically unfair unless everyone knows about them.  That said, the council may open the discussion of the grace period issue its meeting on Jan. 14.

Another issue troubling residents and visitors is that there was a reduction in the number of parking spaces downtown.  This is regrettable but it was unavoidable. Sixteen spaces were removed because they were too close to crosswalks and in violation of state law. Six spaces were removed as part of a contemporaneous planning board approval to transform the former Palmer Square Post Office into a restaurant, which will include a new entrance facing the street.  The reuse of the parking spaces as a loading zone is needed to accommodate the expected passenger and delivery activities.  One space on Park Place was removed as part of mediation of a dispute over private property.  

We are also confronting the problem of loading zones being abused.  The council is working with business owners to address the problem, which stems in part from an informal arrangement that was made long ago under which some businesses were given permits to park in loading zones. Since it turns out that many businesses rely on this program, the council is working to change it in a way that is the least disruptive to businesses and yet is fair for businesses that were not here when the arrangement was made.

Perhaps what has been most annoying for people are the operational problems with the meters.  The problem with coins jamming has been resolved for the most part. The meter company had delayed delivery of collection canisters by one week; as the new meters have smaller coin containers, this resulted in the coin boxes being full sooner and the parking staff had no means to empty the coins.  This situation has been fixed and collections are on track.

The lighting problems with the meters, making them hard or impossible to use at night without a flashlight, are more vexing.  I do not have an entirely satisfactory answer to this one, but we are pressing the meter company to solve it. Apparently the meters we are using are used elsewhere in many communities without problems.

We are also working with the mobile app vendor to fix glitches that have been reported. We plan to revisit our decision to create a Princeton-branded app and we are exploring the possibility of making an additional app available.

Personally, regarding the increased parking rates, I want to emphasize that my views are not uniformly shared by the rest of the governing body.  I believe charging a relatively high fee for parking is an important step we need to make to address climate change. There is no more effective way to reduce Princeton’s overall vehicle emissions, which is a goal of our climate action plan.  Parking, including private parking for one’s personal vehicle, parking for employees of private businesses, as well as parking by visitors on our streets, is a cost of owning a vehicle; that cost should not be paid-for or subsidized by those who do not drive.  The truth is that expensive parking disincentivizes driving and by logical correlation, free and low cost parking incentivizes driving.  

As we move forward, we are going to have to balance the existential threat of climate change with the impact of policy decisions that encourage alternative forms of transportation, which some fear will negatively impact the economic vitality of our downtown. However, Princeton’s central business district, because of its many virtues as a popular destination, has always been a place where parking is difficult and relatively costly.  I believe it will continue to prosper and I’m optimistic that the changes we have made are a step in the right direction.

I hope this helps provide some clarification about the parking problems.  The rest of the Council and I welcome further discussion on these issues.

Jenny Crumiller
Princeton Council President

Community Contributor

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51 Comments

  1. I don’t see anyone talking about it. All of the businesses in Princeton have people working there at hourly , not so big rate, very few are able to provide parking space, so if you are working in the center of town, you are loosing on paying huge parking fees. Counsel of Princeton says there are working on solution. I’ve heard this for a while How long is it going to take? I see this municipality justifying what they are doing by all kinds of ridiculous arguments, but it’s quite simple: greedy is the word

  2. I just read the other comments and thought I should add that it’s a bit ironic that I drive a Tesla.

  3. I just got a $40 ticket for being, literally, 1 minute late. The enforcement guy sheepishly apologized as he handed the ticket to me, which made it seem worse, somehow. An unfortunate way to end taking the kids for lunch and clothes shopping. I had put all the quarters I had into the machine, and I hurried between stores and checkout lines. Why am I doing this? It’s just too stressful! And the fine seems like an underhanded gotcha for not being quite fast enough. Who does this benefit? Even without the fine, I always thought it was annoying! You should be doing everything you can to entice people like me to come into town. If I didn’t have to rush back, I’d stay in stores longer and I would have spent more. Princeton, you got an extra $40 from me today, Enjoy it! Because I’m going out of my way to stay out of Princeton.

  4. Did Princeton do a study of a comparable town like Newtown, PA? There, the parking is free (usually for a set period of time). The town is always crowded and not one store is vacant — and if it is not for long. Maybe businesses in Princeton would be thriving, not dying, if we adopted a policy closer to theirs than the draconian one we live under now.

  5. Clearly, in spite of the issues we will keep these installed meters, and I think we can turn unfortunate beginning into a good long-term solution. The task is finding a good compromise on some of the numbers and features involved. Below are what appear to be the issues and reasonable basis for discussion.

    Hourly rate too expensive: To be discussed in conjunction will all interests concerned.

    Convenience fee for app: Should be eliminated and the fee rolled into the hourly rate. Fee becomes amortized over all users and a perk for locals using the app

    Maxing out parking in a zone: I for one think it is hard enough to find another space in the same area. If one does, then clearly there is a need. But should be discussed.

    Grace period: This was highly desirable where one slightly mis-estimated the time away. I think it should be returned. Anyone who doesn’t know about it will find out about it when they accidentally have need of it.

    Getting unused money back: I believe that this is very important—with the app. To have to estimate time away ahead of time creates anxiety over not wasting money. But then, when out and about, anxiety is created as one has to constantly look at the clock. With the app, why not go modern: just take money from the virtual wallet associated with how long people are in the space. Let them “log out” when they leave. Like anything else in our computer-age charged per unit time. This is really a no-brainer when you think about it. To do otherwise is to hope that people fail–so as to collect extra revenue in tickets. The new meters can be used to their potential and justify their technology cost/benefit calculation.

  6. About the whole climate change issue: how about banning all the trucks and tourist buses from Nassau? There are plenty of trucks that are not making deliveries on Nassau, but, rather, are using our town as a short cut or bypass between various highways. They rumble down Nassau and 206 and sometimes jackknife at Harrison and Nassau. The tourist buses, having sort of been banned from Nassau, now idle on Prospect and Alexander.
    Why don’t we address that and penalize them rather than those who are driving cars to town to spend at local businesses?

  7. Jenny, it is refreshing that you are not the least bit concerned about what people think of you. Go girl! Just be you!

  8. Many businesses have reward programs that acknowledge regular customers by offering them a discount or a free coffee or free ice cream. The Smart Card worked on that same idea. Those who frequented downtown Princeton were rewarded with the ability to take back extra money put on the meter and a 10% discount when refilling the card. Every May, Princeton’s merchants join together to thank downtown cyclists with over $1,000 in gift cards. And the Princeton police reward young cyclists who are wearing helmets by giving them gift cards to local food places. Rather than focusing on punishing drivers, let’s come up with other ways to encourage cyclists to bike downtown to shop and dine (which frees up parking spaces for those who cannot bike to town). And let’s figure out a way, like the Smart Card features, to acknowledge those who regularly choose to use our downtown shops, restaurants, theaters, etc over Route 1 and on-line options. Also, there is a light in the meters that is activated by the green button.

  9. MONDAY – JANUARY 14th – 7pm – HEAD TO THE PRINCETON MUNICIPAL BUILDING (at 400 witherspoon street) TO LET THE PRINCETON COUNCIL HEAR YOUR OPINIONS RE: THE NEW PARKING SYSTEM AND PRICES.

  10. I get that the sudden raise in rates is nasty, but it’s because rates have been $1.25 per hour for ten years in the downtown business area. Meaning, we’ve been parking pretty cheaply all this time!

    I think $2.25 per hour is reasonable for a desirable place like downtown Princeton. Many other places in New Jersey, like Elizabeth, charge $2 per hour for on-street parking. Forgive my town pride but: Princeton is not Elizabeth.

    The Parking Study says there is plenty of parking in downtown Princeton: e.g. the Chambers St garage is only 30% occupied most of the time; that’s because it has set its price too high. The town of Princeton has no say over the rates charged at a commercial property, but I don’t think it’s fair that they occupy prime real estate downtown just to house empty parking spaces. Ideally, off-street parking is cheaper than on-street parking, to encourage turnover close to stores which is good for business.

  11. OMG the CFAC analysis! Instead of comparing parking in a Princeton to an urban city like Elizabeth why didn’t CFAC look at suburban towns like Millburn or Summit? This is what happens when you hand over responsibilities to unelected friends of the mayor and co. Also revenue from parking meters is expected to increase by $6 million over the next few years? Of course these changes were about money – nothing else, just another way to tax residents without calling it a tax.

  12. Regarding the parking mobile app, why isn’t the Parkmobile app – from Parkmobile.io an option? The app is used in New Hope, Lambertville and Philadelphia. Why was it necessary to reinvent the wheel and create a specific Princeton-branded app when a excellent solution already exists?

  13. Fewer, cash-eating, energy wasting meters, intentionally programmed to expire quickly or drive folks further from town are no plus for Princeton. An app & solar feature needing power boosters haven’t fooled folks with a brain into believing this is some cool, modern happening…this is a failed meter replacement exercise not a parking improvement project. The end result is monetization (with massive profit of others) not modernization. Please let’s examine that, before Council rolls out their next big idea that looks & feels like a Sherman Tank, to make things “better” here.

  14. As one who has written and performed extensively about climate change in recent years, I would question the invocation of climate change in regards to downtown parking. One insight in an earlier comment was that parking meters don’t distinguish between an electric vehicle and a massive SUV. I love riding my bike downtown or to the Shopping Center, and highly recommend it to anyone whose bike is collecting dust in the garage, but I know that many people live too far away for bikes to be a practical alternative. I’ve made many suggestions over the years, and particularly to Sustainable Princeton recently, as to how Princeton could become much more sustainable in a cost-efficient manner. One of those suggestions–saving $20,000 in staff time by distributing free yardwaste bags via Ace Hardware rather than from a staffed hut near the municipal building–was actually adopted. I heard later that it was the considerable efforts of former council member Bernie Miller that made that idea a reality. It’s important that we associate action on climate change with pleasure and liberation from dependency on fuels that while wondrously convenient are also stripping us of a future we can feel good about. Though exploring the reality of human-caused climate change makes us more aware of the havoc we are collectively wreaking, it also heightens an appreciation of the extraordinary workings of a nature and climate that have sustained us up to now and have for far too long been taken for granted. Please excuse the shameless plug, but for info about a witty theatrical performance in Princeton on Jan. 18 about climate change, nature and human nature, take a look at climatecabaret.com.

  15. Jenny Liz Tim Quinn and the rest of the council. You broke the parking system in town -now you have to fix it and hopefully before more businesses shut down. No, parking didn’t cause the problem but you all certainly made it worse. What are you going to do to fix it and when? And here’s a suggestion- get a new consultant.

  16. Ms. Crumiller’s response, “About losing beloved businesses: The loss of independent businesses is upsetting to everyone. It has changed the character of the town, and it’s a loss. But it’s not because of parking, and it happened before these changes.”
    Nobody is suggesting that parking created the swath of vacancies downtown. This is an epidemic called ‘the retail apocolypse’ and it’s affecting every town. This is what should worry the council. There are many options out there for businesses. Summit, Westfield, Morristown, Red Bank, Haddonfield…they’re all incentivizing businesses to come to town and fill their vacancies. Meanwhile, the local Princeton government “disincentivizes” auto-bound visitors. Why would a business considering filling one of the many vacancies in Princeton to hang their shingle, when the hostile government is anti-business? When leases for current businesses expire, why wouldn’t they consider a town with lower rents and a friendly business environment that encourages visitors to drive into town? This council is so short sighted.
    Long Island City provided incentives to lure Amazon to their town. Shouldn’t Princeton’s government be doing something similar, on a smaller scale, to recruit new and retain existing businesses to town?
    Parking issues hasn’t caused the problem, it has added to the problems. When the economy is in recession, the Fed doesn’t raise interest rates. When there are problems, we need solutions that ease burdens…not added barriers that knowingly “disincentivizes” consumers from visiting town.

  17. “I do not favor grace periods such as these because they reward non-compliance and they are basically unfair unless everyone knows about them.”

    Above all else, this sentence makes clear the vindictive attitude of the Princeton Council President toward people who regularly park in Princeton. Someone who returns to their car a few minutes late, and sees that they have not been ticketed by Princeton’s outsized fleet of parking patrol officers, is not a non-compliant citizen seeking a reward. The grace period protected honest people making mistakes.

    Removing an entire system of support and citing only your unfounded and explicitly subjective opinion (quoted above) is a flippant way to govern. There will always be people within a system who abuse it, but administration ought to remain focused on providing benefits, not levying fines.

  18. As a frequent visitor to Princeton, I recognize parking has never been great, but now it’s not great and way too expensive. This will result in two things: 1- I’ll still come to Princeton on occasion, but that after dinner coffee I would have had in Small World and/or treat from House of Cupcakes or The Bent Spoon will not be purchased because that money now goes in the meter. 2 – I’ll patronize places not openly hostile to visitors, like Lambertville and New Hope.

    If this is what you were going for from non-residents, congratulations.

  19. OMG – She is so far from reality that even discussing the present changes is a waste of time.
    One piece of advice for Council President please walk to the university and take some Economics 101 refresher courses. I am sure you can one afford them and second OH YOU SO NEED THEM.

  20. The only thing that raising parking prices will do for me is make me think twice before going to downtown Princeton and spending my money there at all. With such a close proximity to rt1, there isn’t much that I will be missing by not spending time on Nassau street or anywhere else in town. I am disabled and cannot walk long distances. I rely on my car to get me where I need to go, not “close” to it. Now there are fewer spots and they are more expensive. Good work.

  21. I think the incredible insularity of outlook is what is surprising. It’s as if the majority of the new parking decisions were modeled based on someone living in the Borough who needs to walk a short distance to town, and the heck with the people who live further out, or who don’t even live in Princeton, or are elderly, disabled, or not able to pay the higher rates. You are “incentivizing” visitors to go elsewhere. Sounds like a really great idea for Princeton’s merchants and quality of life. I doubt the master plan is designed for a ghost town of empty store fronts dotted by more new banks. Maybe the next step will be that Princeton only allows Teslas into town because they are better for emissions?

  22. Council can’t legitimately claim that Princeton is addressing climate change/global warming with this new system. Good for you, Jenny, for knowing that. Installing batteries will require more material & fiscal resources, more & brighter street lights will require more energy (and destroy our historic downtown’s romantic vibe at night), and a system engineered to makes 08540 taxpayers park further away & walk to avoid a wallet hemorrhage will make some of them choose the highway. Council’s “my way or highway” attitude towards busy hardworking young, middle class, & taxpaying residents living in the former township, as well as Mother Earth and our seniors will heat things up for sure. Many will take to “the highway” for all but a few special events & burn more fossil fuels since they’re not really welcomed in our town center. So Council’s push to urbanize 08542 with bright lights, increased energy & resource use, and an economic “border wall” will keep some residents out while serving others. When the new downtown hotel & urban multi family units Council are built in 08542, merchants will be OK. Until then, the only folks who may be 100% happy are those banking over $15,000 a month in “convenience fees”, walkers who own a piece of 08542, and “appy” folks with money to burn. Nothing will stop those making our Bedford Falls a Pottersville, and absolutely none of this will matter in the end when the planet overheats. Thanks Jenny, for your communication & concern. We do know you genuinely care.

  23. To the Council President:

    I credit you with now being open about your viewpoint, but I can’t believe that there are many people in Princeton who would agree with your viewpoint that we want to eliminate people driving into Princeton. Yes, let’s reduce emissions, but your policy treats electric cars and a diesel truck as the same thing in terms of climate change. You are well intentioned, but this policy, carried to its logical conclusion, would result in an empty downtown with no impact on overall emissions (as those cars will still drive somewhere else). I wonder about the claim about transparency as it seems that at least you had a secret motivation for the hike in parking fees that you are only revealing after the fact.

    Do you care about the vibrant downtown community that Princeton used to have? One could have implemented all the other parking changes without raising the fees the month before Christmas. But the Council didn’t. It’s hard not to think that the Council doesn’t care about the future of our business community or the Princeton community that cannot bike or walk downtown.

  24. I am 67 years old and deal with chronic pain that would make it difficult for me to walk to get downtown. The Council President’s argument that charging a quarter for every four to seven minutes of parking because it will reduce the number of people who use their cars to get downtown and thereby reduce climate change is nothing short of ridiculous. The unreasonable fee for meter parking will make people like me – who cannot walk downtown – drive even further to shop at places where parking is more reasonable. While she “disincentivizes” (is that a word?) driving downtown, she is, in fact, discouraging people from shopping downtown at all. The downtown shop keepers and the people who want to shop downtown deserve better.

  25. More responses:

    About the lighting: we are exploring possible battery powered lights to the meters, but I’m not sure how viable an option this is — hopefully our staff will report on this at our meeting next Monday. As I mentioned in my letter, the meter vendor has said they don’t hear the complaint about the lighting in other towns. Based on this information, it seems as though the problem is poor lighting in the downtown. Therefore, the town is installing brighter light bulbs in street lights wherever possible as soon as possible, and we are adding new lights in the CVS parking lot, and we are looking into possibly adding new lighting where it’s needed.

    About the app: It appears that the kinks are being worked out and the app is working. There are more than 3,000 app users, and there were more than 44,000 transactions through credit cards or the app in November. More data will be presented at our meeting on Monday.

    About the rates: the rates are high if you want the convenience or parking close in. If you are willing to walk, it’s cheaper to park in the garage and on outer streets. That said, our governing body is not a monolith I repeat I’m not speaking for everyone. If you feel the rates are unfair, you should come to our meeting on Monday and make your case for cheaper rates.

    About trying to keep customers out of Princeton: Either we try to reduce vehicle emissions or we don’t, but it is disingenuous to both claim to want to reduce vehicle emissions and also to invite more cars into the town. I would prefer to stop claiming we’re aiming to reduce vehicle emissions when we’re not actually willing to do that, than to continue to say both things with a straight face.

    About losing beloved businesses: The loss of independent businesses is upsetting to everyone. It has changed the character of the town, and it’s a loss. But it’s not because of parking, and it happened before these changes.

    About involving businesses in the process: The Council hosted a large meeting at the Nassau Inn, publicized in the Town Topics and elsewhere, and it held multiple public meetings on parking at with businesses and residents, and our Mayor and staff attended meetings with the Princeton Merchant Association. The Council was fully transparent and open about everything we were doing, including and especially raising the rates.

  26. I, for one, love the new system. The app is wonderful and eliminates the necessity of hauling bags full of quarters. The ability to add time without running to the meter, and the extended hours of parking allowed, are also wonderful.

  27. I was looking into working in Princeton but after reading whats going on. I now have many reasons not to or visit

  28. How about one rate during the week for locals and a different rate on weekends for the daytripping hordes? Meanwhile what are the giant tour buses paying? Nothing? Thought so.

  29. Yesterday I parked on Palmer Square and was horrified when my quarter got me four minutes!! A pocket full of change barely buys an hour. Come on. $2.25 per hour is what big cities charge. Who exactly does Princeton think it is?

  30. I own a business in town and live 1 mile away.

    The parking issue in town and the people making the decisions are emblematic of what is happening in the US overall. Quality of life, mortality rate, public education and healthcare are all suffering under the superficial culture we have become – where what speaks the loudest is the almighty $. What makes a town retain its charm and friendliness are not greedy landlords but quality of life. One can see this clearly in European cities, vs. the cities that bring in American chain stores like MCDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, etc….

    The quality of the stores, the high costs of rents, the closed stores, the stores that don’t last more than 3 years- indicate real deterioration of Princeton, not measured by tourism but quality of life.

    Let’s use our beloved Main St. Bistro, in the Harrison St. Shopping Center, as an example. The food was not gourmet but adequate. However, the ambiance was wonderful and over the years developed a real hometown feeling. (Perhaps this is a foreign concept to the younger generation who grew up on the internet. ) There was no music blasting in the background, and the waiters and waitresses didn’t walk around thinking they were gods gift to earth, but who were friendly, you could talk to, and knew their names.

    What happened? Sold to a restaurant corporation who has another restaurant in town, opened another restaurant (7’s) so they could use Main St.’s liquor license, and then closed – what a yr. later?

    Climate change my foot…what a poor and stupid excuse.

    The people who own the properties on Palmer Sq. and other streets in town, and the city council should be ashamed of themselves.

    We’re just holding our breath that the last three quality places in town, Landau’s, Small World and the Record Exchange will still be around in the years to come.

  31. It’s not that people do not use technology. Many of us use parking apps in most of the towns surrounding Princeton up to and including Philadelphia, even at the train station. It’s not the Princeton app but it works reliably, is intuitive and as of yet, I’ve not had a failure. So it’s not using an app that’s the problem. It’s the app and the hardware that are used in Princeton and how they’ve been deployed that are the problem. It would be helpful to tell us what Council is doing and is going to do. I feel like I’m now getting lectured by Council on participation and not understanding the underlying goal or how software works. I assure you that I and others do understand and many of us participated. Collecting information and objective listening are different.

  32. As the owner of Princeton Record Exchange, I too was dismayed by the almost doubling of the rates in the downtown area. Many of our customers have been quite vocal with their displeasure, with some threatening to boycott Princeton entirely.

    I was somewhat comforted when a couple of the council members assured me they were keeping merchants’ interests in mind and would be readdressing concerns in January. However, now that we hear from the Council president that her desire is to “disincentivize” visitors to our town (to help climate change?), I don’t know what else to think but that the council has turned its back on the struggles that downtown retail stores are experiencing.

    I encourage a re-thinking of this strategy and hope that the rates will be lowered to aid in keeping our town a vibrant mix of retail, restaurants and residential.

    Jon Lambert

  33. You know what else helps climate change, empty store fronts and you are well on your way to achieving that end as well. If reducing car traffic into town is so important, what hasn’t the FREE bus route expanded to the western suburbs 5 years after consolidation? That would certainly help.

  34. As owner of the largest independent retail store in downtown Princeton, we have heard our fair share of feedback regarding the new parking situation. Also, as the owner of the largest independent retail store in downtown Princeton, I would have expected that we would have been proactively approached by the council or mayor prior to implementing the new parking initiative.
    We appreciate the support and understanding from locals who have expressed concern for the economic viability of downtown merchants, citing empty storefronts and the tidal shift of the retail environment. We could not do it without you. Furthermore, local non-profits, charities, and schools rely on your support of independent downtown merchants, as the mom-and-pop establishments are the businesses approached for, and ultimately supportive of, all of the donation requests from these local organizations.
    There is a trickle-down effect. Please be aware of the cascading effect, should you decide to boycott independent downtown businesses based on the parking changes. We all thrive together with the success of local, independent businesses downtown.

  35. It’s apparent from the plethora of complaints that this did not go well. But, your response is highly defensive, and doesn’t appear open to the reaction. Your extensive use of “I” is highly revealing – you seem to value your perspective over others. The meters are obviously difficult to read, and your defense that they are installed in other towns and locations doesn’t make them more readable. And, your personal opinions about the grace period – they are yours, not the publics… And, so on…

  36. Jenny – kudos to you for acknowledging the parking fiasco. It’s unfortunate that the mayor has yet to take ownership. She did manage to denounce white supremacy this morning. ..This parking fiasco is indicative of a greater problem in the town leadership which is that very few in our local government are willing to be independent and ask questions and that’s exactly why this parking meter change was implemented right before the start of the holiday season with a significant increase in pricing and poorly implemented across the board- so either no one on the council had any concerns about the implementation and plan, or they did but were afraid to raise those questions. either way it’s concerning. This drive to reduce carbon emissions by raising parking rates and changing the system is just a way for those on the council to polish their liberal credentials. No thought was given to the 30,000 people who live in Princeton.

  37. If the council is going to invoke “climate change” to inconvenience thousands and harm merchants, it would be a wonderful symbol if they would downsize their carbon-gobbling, 4,000 sq. ft. homes. That would be a way to advertise their virtue in a way that doesn’t harm others. What are the chances?

  38. if discouraging private car use is a main goal of the new “improved” system, it seems ludicrous to do so without offering a viable alternative in the form of public transportation. Not everyone lives in walking distance to downtown Princeton. Not everyone rides a bicycle. There are countless additional reasons why this rationale makes zero sense.

  39. “Climate change” is the all-purpose scolding-of-choice for wealthy, well-fed people who believe they should rule over the little people. Let them eat cake … as long as they ride a bike to buy it!

  40. I puzzled by the Council President’s statement in her response below that:

    “The last time parking rates were raised a decade ago, many angry people threatened to boycott the downtown. Nevertheless, the downtown has gotten even busier in the ensuing years. ”

    Can this be a true statement? There are so many empty storefronts downtown now, and over the last decade, a number of core stores closed.

    It is good for the the Town to work to encourage non-automotive means of transit and to encourage use of more multi-person car rides. But the current plan makes this a higher priority than a vibrant downtown (when did Princeton vote for this?) and does nothing to encourage carpooling. The Council seems to want to punish those of use too poor to live in walking distance from the downtown. That’s wrong!

  41. Thanks to everyone who commented. I have a few quick replies (I will answer more when I have more time):

    About calling this a disaster: While we’re struggling with some problems with the new system and I accept responsibility for that, it is not a disaster. The last time parking rates were raised a decade ago, many angry people threatened to boycott the downtown. Nevertheless, the downtown has gotten even busier in the ensuing years. We have had a large number of people download and use the app (I will post statistics when I get a chance) and at this point there is no empirical evidence either way that the parking system has deterred people from visiting the downtown. We might be doing some parking counts and then can get a more accurate assessment of the parking numbers (I will report back to confirm).

    About climate change: In my view it is about balance. I supported the rate increase because I felt it was reasonable – as did the entire governing body when it was approved. But I believe the issue of climate change needs to be raised regarding parking. The town has a long-stated policy of discouraging single occupancy vehicles in favor of other forms of transportation. Our Master Plan states: “A concerted effort should be made to support reduced dependency upon the automobile.” The municipality is working closely with Sustainable Princeton to develop a Climate Action Plan, which includes a stated goal of reducing Princeton’s emissions from vehicles significantly, an effort which we are supporting it with tax dollars. Princeton University recognizes that parking policy impacts transportation choices and that is why it has implemented a new parking policy in its effort to be more sustainable. (Also, I want to reiterate that my fellow elected officials supported the rate increases for other reasons and not, as I understand, because of climate change.)

    About watching a movie at the Garden Theater: under the old parking system, you could not park for more than 2 hours on Nassau Street or Vandeventer Avenue. Now, you can park east of Washington / Vandeventer on Nassau, and on Vandeventer, for 3 hours. That should give you more than enough time to watch movies at the Garden Theatre.

  42. I applaud the council president for expressing her personal views and motivation/s behind the parking meter changes. That said, OMG what a misguided and epic failure this project has been from start to finish.

    No one should have to use an app or visit a website to figure out how, where, and when to park in Princeton. You removed an easy to use, ACCESSIBLE TO ALL method ( the Smartcard) and implemented a system that inconveniences everyone. No one benefits from higher parking fees when you actually pause, breathe, and THINK ..and weigh the financial benefit against the plethora of negative consequences, which are stated very effectively by other commenters here.

    Perhaps most ludicrous is her reasoning of “climate change” and needing to discourage car-driving as a transportation mode to access downtown Princeton. Honey, what are you smoking?? I can’t carry a week’s worth of groceries on my head, nor on my bike. We’re you thinking we’d all just stay home in the winter months and not support downtown merchants when it’s snowing, icy, or raining?
    You gave zero PRACTICAL thought to how people actually use the downtown area, the merchants who depend on residents and visitors —- IN CARS—- to support their businesses.

    You need to look at THE WHOLE PRNICETON POPULATION—- it’s not just college students and hipsters on bikes. It’s families with kids, it’s middle income residents, it’s seniors on fixed incomes, it’s tourists, it’s employees working in those businesses who live miles away.

    You’ve effectively managed to DISENFRANCHISE the local and greater community, not de-incentivize driving.

    Shame on you.

  43. For what it’s worth, the Princeton Echo published a long piece on the parking objectives in its June, 2018, issue. At that point there had already been many meetings, and lots of public comment, and several people predicting that no matter what changes were made, they were bound to be controversial.

    It is also true that in Princeton, as in most other vibrant (and hoping to be vibrant) cities across the country, cars and the parking of them are no longer the No. 1 priority in the design and maintenance of public spaces. Every time I get in my car and go somewhere I hate that. Everytime I get somewhere and become a pedestrian I think it’s OK.

  44. Is this position part of the current parking ordinance? “Parking, including private parking for one’s personal vehicle, parking for employees of private businesses, as well as parking by visitors on our streets, is a cost of owning a vehicle; that cost should not be paid-for or subsidized by those who do not drive. The truth is that expensive parking disincentivizes [sic]driving and by logical correlation, free and low cost parking incentivizes [sic] driving.”

    Eliminating the Grace Period was explained away by it not being part of the current ordinance. Driving up the cost of parking to reduce and driving and parking should not be slipped into the new system if it is not part of the current ordinance. The issue about non-drivers subsidizing drivers is pointless. And later when, the potential for the new rates to be viewed as a non-tax revenue generator, then the non-driver is clearly benefiting from the revised parking program.

    Princeton is fortunate enough to have a thriving downtown. No single aspect makes it so and no single policy change can be blamed entirely for any future decline. However the timing here is dubious when the tidal change in retail is being seen locally for sure. There are many retail spaces that are sitting vacant. Change is happening that cannot be prevented on a the local level, but the local decision to change meter rates, policy and functionality should have given greater sensitivity to the downtown Princeton merchants and their local customers.

    And then there is the question of how long will it take t make up for all the lost revenue while no meter fees were being collected juxtaposed against giant capital outlay for the new, more complicated meters.

  45. For all of the alleged IQ in Princeton, we went from SmartCard parking to just plain stupid. It is shocking that the best plan the Town Council could come up with is a scheme this unpleasant and difficult for residents, businesses, and visitors. Climate change? Existential threats? Let’s *problem local* for a second. What about how you’ve disadvantaged families in town who can’t afford “convenience fees” or who relied on the refunds from unused parking time? You know, the people who will lose their jobs when the business fail because of the magical climate change meters. By the way, having meetings only works if you LISTEN. The parking is awful. The appropriate response is, “we are terribly sorry and we will replace this with a program like Smart Card that works for our residents.” Otherwise, we residents will do the replacing starting at the ballot box next election.

  46. Dur… maybe work on decent public transportation before trying to discourage cars?

  47. Climate change? That is the stupidest comment I have read in a long time. It’s as ridiculous as Trump saying climate change doesn’t exist. Parking in Princeton has been bad for a long time, this has made it much worse. Its shameful how the town government money-grabs at the expense of its residents, guests, and merchant community. The sheer number of issues you have had to address here is indicative of an out of touch decision that has been poorly executed.

  48. Kudos to the Council President for being upfront about her motivation to charge high fees for parking as part of her campaign to eliminate cars. Alas, this is a misguided plan. Does she envision Princeton as a place where no one drives? That seems out of touch with how modern society works. Most working people in Princeton need cars to get to their job, the train station, or the supermarket. With the higher parking fees, people — especially those not living downtown — will still drive and park, but will shop and park elsewhere (i.e. Shopping center) or not at all (Amazon).

    Rather than having an effect on climate change, the higher costs of parking will primarily reduce how much time less-affluent residents (those to whom the higher fees matter) will spend downtown. Making Princeton more of a town for the wealthy doesn’t seem like a very equitable plan to me.

  49. I was reading along and somewhat satisfied with the mea culpa until I got to the first paragraph about climate change. Has the Council looked into banning plastic bags and styrofoam? That would be very impactful and not as inconvenient as the parking meter disaster. They have upended business owners in town, because some on the council want to disincentivize people from driving into town. What about disabled people? Parents of young children who don’t want to take their chances on a bike on the narrow streets of Princeton? Any consideration given to the segment of the population for which climate change isn’t the number one priority? And they want to encourage people not to drive their cars. So what do people use a mode of transportation? The vigorous public transportation system in town? The Dinky? Come on.

  50. That’s a lot of interesting reasoning, but the bottom line is that people are being turned away from visiting downtown because the parking has become, well, a crisis: can’t read the meter, can’t figure out how to use, app is problematic, and unanswered questions about costs of using the app and how to get a refund on time not used. The old smart card was so convenient and easy. One shouldn’t have to visit a website to figure out how to park… and how many people even know the instructions are on the website? Last but not least, one should be able to park on Nassau Street long enough to see a full movie at the Garden Theatre!

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