Princeton residents don’t want a license plate scanning ‘Robocop’ in their neighborhoods

On Monday, June 28th, the Council authorized spending $170,000 to fund parking hardware and software that would engage a technology company to implement a new parking ordinance that is strongly disliked by a vast majority of Princeton citizens. The council did so, despite having heard from numerous citizens protesting this new proposed parking program at a previous meeting….to the degree that the council was obliged to put the whole idea on hold – go back to the drawing board – and revisit the whole shebang at a future meeting. Also, despite having no need to approve this now – a fact that Mia Sacks was hard-pressed to pry out of the other council members – finally establishing that this allocation of funds could be done at any time in the future, if needed. Truly an act of bad faith with the public, of which Ms. Sacks was the only dissenting vote.

It was egregiously disingenuous of the council to slip this allocation of funds-authorization into this bill (which was only revealed publicly, shortly before the meeting). It was then nearly four hours into the meeting before it came up for a brief discussion – and then voted upon – by which time, it would appear, that nearly everyone who came to the meeting to comment had given up and gone to bed (and as it turned out, Mayor Mark Frieda threw a Catch-22 by not allowing it to be commented on by the public before being enacted,) The act of council insisting on, voting for, and winning the approval of these funds to engage a technology company to impose a program upon Princeton residents that is costly, controversial, and has yet to be decided if it will even be implemented, reeks of a fait accompli – not to mention a decided air of disdainful noblesse oblige.

Residents of Princeton do not want license plate scanning “robocop” vehicles buzzing around our currently calm and lovely streets several times a day, imposing complicated fines. We are fed up with the proposed predatory rules and complications, designed solely to make money for companies who would police our neighborhood streets (as well as generate more income for the Princeton government) while destroying the lovely quiet privacy, sanctity, and utility for the residents of our residential streets. Residential streets are by definition “residential” – i.e. to be used by residents, their guests and contractors – not a resource or commodity.

People who work in businesses on Nassau Street and the Palmer Square area – many of them receiving minimum wage – should not have to pay to park near their workplace either. And they especially should not have to pay to park on residential streets, far from their employment, and then have to walk for many blocks in the hot sun, bitter cold, snow, or rain to get to work. They should be able to park in the very under-utilized downtown garages (i.e. the Spring Street garage) near their workplaces, for free with permits – something the council should actively be working towards. Also, a system of free shuttle buses from further away parking lots would benefit everyone (including shoppers).

David Cohen mentioned at a previous meeting his strong desire – actually insistence-  for “equitability” in permit parking for residents (an apparent main thrust of his push for this parking program.) A much simpler, obvious, and infinitely less costly solution is to do just that – and implement free permits (or ones for a very nominal one-time cost) across the board for ALL tax-paying residents of Princeton – allowing them and their guests and contractors to park on their own street (where space is available.) And voila – equitability achieved!

These days, Princeton – via council – seems intent on imposing more and more bureaucratic rules, while squeezing more and more money from us. Suffice it to say that residents are tired and weary of having to protest and fight against a succession of unwanted and unwelcome plans that council is hellbent on imposing.

At the June 28th meeting, Eve Niedergang stated that the council was “…not going to try to sneak anything through…I trust us.”  What a hubristic comment to make! We do not in any way share Eve Niedergang’s trust of the council. It is clear that this council (with the seeming exception of Mia Sacks) has an agenda – determined to push their parking proposal through – no matter what a large group of Princeton residents think, want and are voicing. How about some democracy?  

The site, Sensible Streets Princeton – which advocates rejecting this parking ordinance – is an invaluable resource about this entire issue and is well worth visiting:

Alice Artzt & Bruce Lawton
Hawthorne Avenue


  1. > People who work in businesses on Nassau Street and the Palmer Square area – many of them receiving minimum wage – should not have to pay to park near their workplace either.

    Uh, why not? There is no such thing as a free lunch, and parking for gasoline-powered automobiles seems an odd market-distorting choice for a subsidy.

  2. In anticipation of the council meeting on Monday, July 12th at 7pm – an open letter to council:

    To Members of the Princeton Council:

    We are looking ahead to your meeting in a few short days (Monday, July 12th), during which we believe you will be voting on the $170,000 bond issue to fund parking tech equipment from the vendor, Passport. In light of this, we feel an immediate urgency to address you before you forge ahead – and very possibly start the process of imposing life altering and costly changes upon us, our fellow residents, and our neighborhoods.

    Voting on the bond issue would be a first step in the process of voting on the whole plan. But at the May 24th meeting, there was considerable local push back. Virtually everyone from the public who spoke, spoke strongly against the proposal – and the result was that several council members voiced the need to delay the decision until much later in the year – until there could be productive work sessions with residents and business proprietors on Nassau Street and Palmer Square, as well as any other concerned people who would be impacted. The need for understanding and acting upon the very strong negative reactions of so many Princeton residents was stressed in that meeting. Mia Sacks said that, far from alleviating the perceived parking problems in Princeton, her impression from the comments of residents, was that this proposal would make the situation worse. It was also suggested that a correct decision could not be made before downtown had totally reopened after the pandemic, allowing the council to understand if traffic, businesses, employees, and parking conditions had changed, and in what ways, before instituting any new parking plan.

    You then committed yourselves not to vote on the plan or introduce it as an ordinance until it is revised by the Permit Parking Task Force in response to residents’ criticisms on May 24th. So, by your own commitment, you should not be voting on this first step at this point. It is way too soon.

    As we’ve written to you previously, one of our key concerns regarding your proposal is that if non-residents are now enabled to obtain a permit to park all day on residential streets – what’s to prevent them from parking in front of a particular resident’s house, who may well need or require the space? (note, that in our own specific case, for a permanently handicapped resident – the first and only space in front of the property which leads to the closest path to the house IS needed and required.) As per your plan, not only will tax-paying homeowners now be required to pay for the honor of parking in front of their own house – but depending on the parking choices of non-residents – may not even be able to when needed (i.e. – for loading and unloading groceries, packages, handicapped passengers – what have you.)

    David Cohen accuses those of us who are objecting to this proposal of being selfish….of just wanting to keep our residential permits while other residents in other neighborhoods have to pay for them. That is not at all the case. NO ONE who pays Princeton’s astronomical property taxes, is getting anything for free. NO ONE (in whatever neighborhood they live in in Princeton) should have to pay ANYTHING extra (other than, possibly, a nominal one-time tag or sticker fee) to park in front of their own house or on their street. Any fee to park on one’s own street is onerous and objectionable, even without considering our sky-high tax bills. Indeed, Princeton should make resident permit parking equitable by making it across the board and without charge. Make it so!

    For that matter, nor should anyone holding a minimum wage job in the Nassau Street-Palmer Square area have to pay for parking near their work place either. It should be incumbent upon employers to have parking permits available for their employees (with arrangements worked out with the nearby garages – with the assistance of Princeton government if need be). Using residential streets – far away from their employment to solve this problem, is not a practical or particularly favorable solution – for either the employees or residents. And in addition, it will alter the character of our already VERY costly residential neighborhoods.

    You, the council, have indicated that Princeton owns and controls the Spring Street garage. Garages are made for parking cars! The workers have cars that need to be parked. Utilize THIS resource, in the heart of the downtown to accommodate the need for employee parking – a facility that is already located right where it’s sorely needed, and which has never been used to full capacity, even before the pandemic. A further consideration is that now, post-pandemic, it might well turn out that more office workers may decide to continue to work at home – so utilization of that garage may well be less than before. We need to know what is happening before making a decision.

    But since the May 24th meeting, where these conclusions were established, the council seems to be working urgently to vote for the $170,000 to fund the hardware-software for engaging Passport’s services….despite it’s being established at the June 28th meeting that there was no need or urgency to do so – putting the cart before the horse as it were. Doing so in the middle of the summer when many are away, public attentions are elsewhere, and many residents are STILL completely unaware of the issue is – to say the least – NOT ideal.

    We appreciate that you are all working hard on this issue, but would strongly urge you to listen to your constituents. Pushing ahead, and voting on any aspects of this plan, before fully taking into consideration and acting on all the many objections voiced in the previous meeting, will only antagonize and frustrate everyone. We firmly believe that the plan – with continual and costly tech company commitment, charging residents for parking on their own streets, and tapping those same streets for commercial parking – should be dropped and a re-worked with a new improved plan.

    Alice Artzt & Bruce Lawton – Hawthorne Avenue

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