Princeton parking permit proposal will have unintended consequences

To the Editor of Planet Princeton:

I want to address the Mayor and Council’s current proposal for expanding street parking availability in Princeton’s in-town and near-town neighborhoods. The proposal reserves spaces for downtown employees and creates new parking by removing the overnight parking ban and adding new paid permits for residents.

As a former Princeton Council member for 10 years, I know first-hand that requests for parking from employees and residents are often tinged with desperation and stories of hardship. Council members may believe their plan achieves a measure of social justice for low-paid workers and for those who live in modest homes that lack driveways or whose driveways accommodate only one car.  I disagree with that in terms of both residential and commercial parking. 

A parking spot for one’s car is a cost of owning a car. Employee parking is a cost of doing business.

When considering providing new parking spaces for residents, it is important to understand that houses with no driveways have lower purchase prices and pay lower taxes than houses with plentiful parking. In other words, these residences are more affordable. Adding new parking spaces will increase their price and their taxes. 

Currently, residents with limited parking who want another car either move or find parking somewhere to rent.  With an overnight permit, these residences will no longer include this limitation.  Instead of incentivizing low-car households, the proposal incentivizes the opposite.

The U.S. census indicates that Princeton has a higher-than-average number of residents who commute to work by walking. This should be evidence that our decades-old parking limitations are actually progressive in terms of promoting a walkable, bike friendly environment. Are we really going to change strategy now? This question of sustainability has been inexplicably absent in the debate.  It seems obvious that adding new residential parking spaces will lead to more cars and more traffic on the streets.  Where are the climate activists? 

As for employee parking; the majority of Princeton employers provide parking for their employees. If the town wants to solve the problem for those who do not, it should adopt an ordinance requiring employers to provide parking.  Not only would that be fair, it would eliminate the moral hazard created by providing low cost parking when market-rate parking is more expensive. 

Holding the line on street parking is difficult for the Council when residents and employees plead for more. Those who would get new parking spaces under the proposal will likely support it.  However, the proposed solution is not a long-term solution. It is only helpful in the moment and only for current residents.

Finally, I hope we are not underestimating the permanent, detrimental effect of vast parking-lot streets on Princeton’s old-fashioned beauty and appeal. Princeton is still a picturesque, tourist-worthy town. I ask whether the Mayor and Council want Princeton’s beautiful tree-lined streets parked bumper to bumper like so many cities in the United States.  We can be different.  We can prevent that future. 

Jenny Crumiller

Ms. Crumiller is a former Princeton Council member and lives on Library Place.


  1. Parking is a problem, I am no expert and I am just going to point out that lately I heard parking spaces were needed for HS kids. It seems that it is also needed for businesses’ employees, for visitors, and for residents who can’t walk or ride their bikes. Considering how sustainable and walkable and bike friendly we want to be, the “needed” spaces that I would eliminate would be those for the HS kids, they are the ones who could wake up 15 minutes earlier to walk or ride their bikes to school, and if they have to go to work or to their extracurricular/volunteer activities, they could quickly get back home to jumó in their cars and go, I am sure their workplaces and nonprofit organisations will work this out with them. That’s all what I can say, about the other needed parking spaces, I sincerely don’t know what to say.

  2. The day when Princeton can use certain parts of the rest of the world as a lattice and still enjoy, unaffected, its park-like ambience momentum to an end

  3. HS kids need parking spaces, especially those that come from Cranbury. Do we really want to encourage kids to quickly drive and jump in their cars? This is a false narrative, council is looking to take away parking spots at the HS, not add any. This really has nothing to do with kids and more about the want of few to make Princeton a walkable town. But taking away the parking is bad for businesses (ask those on Witherspoon ST), so lately there are less and less places to walk to, unless you like to walk to empty storefronts.

  4. It should be noted that there are people who walk or bike to work who need a place for their car to be all day when their rental houses have no parking available. As a renter this was a huge deterrent to potential housemates who wanted to leave their car at home all day while working, and a big reason many town employees live outside of town (in addition to cost of living, which in most shared rental houses is lower due to sharing with 5+ others…).

  5. I was reminded by a council member that this is a proposal by the Parking Task Force, which only includes only a subset of the Mayor and Council, and not the M & C itself. This means it has to go before the Council to be approved before being implemented.

  6. Ms. Crumiller is repeating the same falsehoods that Mayor Reed used to justify imposing unreasonable parking restrictions. This statement is absolutely false: “…it is important to understand that houses with no driveways have lower purchase prices and pay lower taxes than houses with plentiful parking. In other words, these residences are more affordable. Adding new parking spaces will increase their price and their taxes.”

    How do I know? Because I pay the same taxes as the neighbor in the nearly identical duplex attached to mine. That house has two parking spaces and I have none. I pointed this out to the tax assessor years ago, who brushed it off as irrelevant. So either market values do not reflect a difference in price, or I have been paying too much in taxes for the last decade.

    Ms. Crumiller is assuming that property buyers have all the facts when they buy in Princeton. I had lived in New York City, where the only restriction on street parking was the need to move your car once a day, Washington, D.C., where residents were eligible, without arguments, for a parking permit, and Hopewell, where there were no restrictions. I’ve since spent time in other cities, including university neighborhoods, where on street parking had far fewer restrictions than here. I was also told, without qualifications, that I would be able to buy a permit to park on the street when I moved to Princeton. I had no reason to question that statement, since nowhere I had lived had had the kind of restrictions imposed on residents here. I got a real shock when I stopped driving to work after a few months in Princeton, and started getting parking tickets, despite my permit. The point is, the lack of parking on the property was not a factor in my price negotiation, because I didn’t know it should be.

    I have concerns about the proposed parking changes, but the committee members have gone about their work carefully and thoughtfully over the last two years, and I think we should give their plan a try before rejecting it out of hand. If it doesn’t work out, well, I have noticed a welcome change in Council over the last few years – flexibility.

  7. Actually in many cases Ms. Crumiller is correct. It might not be true in your individual case. 30 Vandeventer is a good example. When it had no parking it sold for under $800,000 and then went on the market again and sat and sat there. They got variances to build a small driveway and then a month later they were able to turn around and sell it for over $1 million. That is just one example that has been repeated on other streets like Madison. Also, as to this council being more flexible, this council is very married to the greatness of its members ideas. It tries to implement things without proper studies and feedback from residents, spends a lot of money on these things, reverses course, and then spends a ton of money undoing them. Doesn’t seem like progress to me.

  8. when I moved to this area decades ago, Princeton was a fun excursion- shop, try a new (or an old restaurant), visit the museum. I was OK with metered parking. now the parking is crazy and I almost always go somewhere else. same with New Hope, same with downtown Bar Harbor,ME. I understand that I and my pollution-causing car are unwanted; we get in other people’s way and the towns are doing well without us. there are suburbs and urbs for a reason. A crowded place does not need more visitors. A lot of us get the message loud and clear.

  9. The proposal is not about allowing people to add off street parking spots on their properties which, as you note, would drive up home prices. It is about allowing residents to park their cars somewhere on the street where their home is located. Allowing that would not, in fact, drive up prices as Jenny Crumiller ludicrously argues, but it would make it easier for families to live in in town neighborhoods where the lots are so small that there might not even be space to park a car if you wanted to carve up your lot to do so. It is not even about guaranteeing someone the ability to park right in front of their home. It is about allowing them to share the public street with others, including customers, diners, employees and their neighbors. The fact that this isn’t already allowed is ludicrous.

  10. Property assessment reflects the existence of parking or lack of it. Your taxes and the price your paid for the house should be reflective of the no parking.

  11. As someone who has searched for in-town housing, I can attest to the fact that houses without parking do sell for less than those with parking. I am sorry, WJ Resident, that you were misled about your particular situation. That is truly unfortunate.

    If we are worried about having enough parking for residents near Wiggins, then perhaps we should reconsider the bike lane proposal. During the trial of said lane a couple of years back, I saw very few bikes using the lanes, and I drive on Wiggins daily. Further, between then and now, I also see very few bikes using Wiggins. Wiggins is a key thoroughfare to keep car traffic off of Nassau Street and its feeders like Vandeventer, Witherspoon and Chambers. Perhaps we can solve two problems at once by canceling this ill-conceived bike lane and keeping the parking. This won’t solve parking for everyone – certainly not those in the WJ neighborhood who have a real parking problem, but it will help.

    Also, the suggestion about using the top floor of the current garages for employee parking sounds like it would go a long way towards easing the problem.

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