New paid parking permit proposal is an insult to Princeton residents

An open letter to the members of the Princeton Permit Parking Task Force: David Cohen, Leticia Fraga and Michelle Pirone Lambros

I attended the April 17th online zoom meeting regarding your new parking permit proposal. Speaking as a longtime resident (I’ve been here for nearly three decades, and my wife Alice grew up in this house) it is, quite frankly, an affront to propose charging residents and homeowners for the honor of parking on their own street, much less in front of their own home. Residents and homeowners of this decidedly middle class section of Princeton pay dearly in property taxes for the honor of just existing in their own homes. What you deem “a luxury” is actually a de facto perk, paid for by the blood, sweat and yearly worry of not only paying the local taxes, but also the required resident maintenance, upkeep of, and clearing the snow from the walks adjacent to one’s property 
As I understand it, your proposal is fueled by the notion of eliminating parking on Wiggins Street in order to create a dedicated bicycle lane. If enacted, the fact that people that work and are employed in town will lose the use of these spaces is certainly an issue to be addressed. But rather than forcing these workers to have to park and walk yet further from their jobs, there is a rather obvious solution.

I have recently visited and checked on three different weekdays, at different times (during work hours), the Spring Street and Chambers Street parking garages. And as I suspected, the top decks of these garages are a veritable wasteland of available spaces, well over 100-plus each, with usually the next deck down also having quite a number available. Note that the Spring Street garage’s top most deck is currently closed by barricades – possibly due to the 2014 and 2020 suicides, and has yet even more spaces sitting vacant. A further possible consideration: Another, even more impressive wasteland of empty spaces at the top level of the Avalon Princeton parking garage (formerly the Princeton Hospital garage) might provide a similar accommodation for Princeton High School parking needs.

A sensible solution that would not only make residents pleased – but also make in-town workers and employees happy – would be to arrive at some sort of an arrangement with one or both of these garages to issue special permits for the workers to park in these uppermost spaces. The workers would be happy, in that they would now have an assured space right in the heart of where they work – rather than have to scramble and compete for spaces that are now ever further from where they’re employed. The residents and homeowners would be pleased in that these cars would not be a new fixture of everyday life on their streets. Ditto, a similar arrangement could be arrived at with the Avalon Princeton garage – in which Princeton High School personnel could park on the top deck and be a short walk from the school.

The proposed “robocop” via a paid vendor platform is yet a further invasion of an already unpopular trend in Princeton – to pay extra for unneeded and unwelcome, currently sexy, technology to address a rather basic and timeworn issue that is already addressed satisfactorily in our neighborhood. The current signage that reflects the permitting that the homeowners and residents fought for (with good reason) along with the ability to call the police for the occasional parking violator, works and continues to work swimmingly in our neighborhood.

With all the above said, whatever changes you ultimately decide to impose, they must include the preservation of the right of the taxpaying homeowners and residents and their occasional guests and contractors to park without an additional fee or penalty on the street where they live.  As you pointed out during the meeting – the homeowners and residents may not actually “own” the streets or sidewalks they live on – but they surely are required to pay handsomely for them – and thus their continued allowance to park on them is the very least that can be afforded them.

With all due respect – and grateful thanks in advance for your consideration in these matters.

Bruce Lawton
Hawthorne Avenue

Editor’s note: A presentation will be made about the parking permit program and pilot at the Princeton Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday night on Zoom (the council is still meeting virtually)


  1. I like others could not help, on vertigo grounds, dislike the Princeton paid-parking permit proposal pilot program. Did you get that from Beowulf?

  2. Wait, are you saying that Hawthorne Avenue residents have not been paying fees to park on the street? As long as I’ve lived in Princeton (20+ years), there has been a monthly fee for a street parking permit, and a higher fee for a municipal lot permit.
    I know some streets in the old township were not required to pay for on-street parking permits, but isn’t Hawthorne in the old borough?
    The monthly fee for on-street parking is very low.

  3. Indeed – we do not pay – nor have we ever paid to park on our own street (and we have resident issued permit tags for our vehicles – as well as a couple for guests or contractors.) No one who lives in, owns a house and pays property taxes in Princeton should have to pay to park on their own street in front of their home. JOIN THE FIGHT!

  4. As a former resident,I am disappointed that Princeton keeps finding ways of getting rid of parking places or making parking more difficult for visitors and workers as well as residents.

  5. Remember, if the money you spend to park on your own street matters, you aren’t rich enough for the privilege of living in Princeton. That’s the current thinking of the progressive elites who are determined to rid Princeton of the middle class that still needs cars to get to work. Seriously, it really does seem that the town is planning for a future where Princeton residents are the leisure class whose only needs each day will be to walk and bike downtown. The idea that time is money and most people don’t have the luxury of walking everywhere doesn’t seem to occur to our leaders.

    If only there were a moderate party that we could support in opposition to the current local government.

  6. More people need to run for council instead of people running unopposed. We need nonpartisan elections to dismantle the power of the small but powerful political machine here. Maybe someone should start a recall petition to recall these council members who seem to think they know it all.

  7. Einstein said in a letter to a crown princess of Denmark, I believe: “A quaint village made up of people walking on stilts.”

  8. How many cars? How much street-feet should every homeowner, or tenant get to have for their very own personal use? On Witherspoon St? On Hamilton St.?

    Only asking because I used to live on Chestnut as a renter in half-a-house that didn’t even have a driveway. The rent was moderate given the space and location, and while my roommate had the overnite parking permit, there was only one.

    Should I have had to pay for a parking spot, or should everyone that wants to get to park on the street overnite? Parking should be free for all, right?

  9. The proposed system would make it EASIER for the many people in the old borough to park on their own street. And fairness dictates that what goes for us should go for people in the old township.
    The $10 fee proposed for an on-street parking permit is very modest, and I know some people that think it’s way too low. (Think about how much you would pay to park in the garage.)
    The problem, from a political standpoint, is that the proposal is not “pareto optimal” – to achieve fairness, it will make some people (former township residents with current free parking) slightly worse off.

  10. I wonder who that person could be. It would be interesting to have a recall, wouldn’t it?

    Now regarding this new parking/bike lanes fiasco, I am not an expert but it just seems to me that

    1- It is almost a rip off that after paying high property taxes, home owners have to pay for permits to park in front of their streets.

    2- On top of that, some home owners could lose the parking space in front of their houses to give room to bike riders.

    3- The PSC that eventually will be surrounded by new housing which will require parking spaces, is criticised for « excessive unused parking » which is one of the beauties of this place where parking is not an issue. And if in fact its parking is underused, then perhaps the merchants could rent an area for their employees to park and to be shuttled back and forth by the FreeB.

    4- And finally, the mother of contradictions, in a town where there is an obsession for bike lanes ( a.k.a lines and bike illustrations painted on streets), they want to give more parking to body able HS kids who could walk or bike to school.

    Am I mistaken? Did I miss something?

    All this is so discombobulated.

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