The following letter was sent to the mayor and Princeton Council by the Princeton Merchants Association Parking Meter Task Force on Jan. 17
In collectively reviewing the current parking plan, we come to several conclusions and want to propose a set of improvements that would honor the intent of the new plan — as articulated by Mayor Lempert in a recent meeting — to serve first and foremost as a tool for economic development of Princeton’s vital downtown.
It appears that difficulties with the technology of the new meters (including the important issue of refundability and credit card minimums) are already being addressed, which is important and very welcome.
We feel, however, that precisely given the urgency of the issue, both for business owners and for residents, it is wise not to propose other partial fixes in haste, but rather to take another comprehensive look. Our proposal makes permitted employee parking integral to the plan and suggests lower, progressive parking rates as well as better solutions to loading zones, while beginning to address how such changes could honor the current parking budget.
Progressive parking rates (in place of current 2hr parking):
Our proposal: hour 1 — $1.50; hour 2 — $1.75; hour 3 — $2.25
The progressive structure incentivizes turn-over, an ambition of the parking overhaul for the downtown. The third hour is essential so customers don’t need to choose, for instance, between a meal and shopping. Council recently cited data that shows that the average parking duration is under two hours, an index that the 3-hour period would allow for a longer stay for some without leading to too many spots being taken up for too long. For a 3-hour period, the rate would come to $5.50 as opposed to $6.75 at the current flat rate. We fully recognize the importance of any fixes to the new system being budget neutral, and would ask that the council reach out to citizens’ finance advisory committee members to confirm our progressive rate proposal is or could be made budget neutral to their original proposal of the projected revenues. We suggest the following to help offset any shortfall:
*Raise the 10-hour meters from $.75 to $1.00 an hour
*Begin metered parking at 8 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.
*Raise the Dinky daily parking from $4 to $5 a day
*Charge tour buses parked in town a sizable, to be determined fee. (While you’re at it, maybe charge idling buses an environmental surcharge)
*Revisit the loading zones to make them both business- and, during off-hours, customer-friendly by installing 30-minute meters: the timing for metered parking in loading zones may need to be site-specific and can be longer in some places than in others. At a minimum: after 4 p.m. and on weekends. This, too, will provide additional revenue.
Permitted employee parking:
Your email to us as well as the mass email from the town and statements made at the town meeting of 1/14 all suggest that permitted employee parking in walking distance is being taken seriously as part of the current phase of revisions to the overall parking plan. That said, there are two immediate steps we recommend, which we believe will demonstrate the town’s commitment to this issue:
*It is our understanding that the Franklin-lot is owned by the town and sits empty. It could and should be opened for employee parking immediately. We suggest a $30 monthly fee per spot for some additional revenue.
*Do not convert free parking to bike-lanes: this does little to change the nature of the bike-ride into town and it artificially pits workers against environmentalists.
While the emotions currently being aired by many speak to the fact that a lot is at stake in revising the new parking plan, we truly welcome this moment as one of bringing more and/or different stakeholders into the process and hopefully of coming up with more ideas and creative solutions. It is in that spirit that we submit our proposal and are ready to make time for future meetings as necessary.
Jessica Durrie, Joanne Farrugia, Jon Lambert, Mimi Omiecinski, Cliff Simms, Dean Smith, Dorothea von Moltke and Jack Morrison on behalf of the members of the Princeton Merchants Association