Having lived in Princeton for forty-plus years, I have felt and seen the growing encroachment of traffic and parking into in-town residential neighborhoods. Some residential streets have become commuter thoroughfares and some have become clogged with “overspill parking” from the business district. The intensity of these changes comes not only from growth, but also from the lack of compensatory infrastructure to handle growth effectively.
To address some of the parking issues in town, a task force was formed and charged with improving parking for residents in the tree streets and Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhoods where, for far too long, the streets have been clogged with “overspill parking” from downtown businesses and additionally, in the tree streets, from University graduate students.
In the process of their work, Jack Morrison, representing the Merchants Association, requested a surprisingly large number of subsidized parking spaces ( last I heard 800-plus spaces but this could change) for in-town businesses, as well as anonymity for the businesses involved. Giving way to these requests, a permit parking proposal was developed that pushes business parking into most in-town residential neighborhoods, slowly for now, but as Princeton grows with the clear intention of increasing the numbers parking on your streets. Between now and 2025, or in just three years, the population of Princeton is expected to grow 7 to 10% and that’s just the beginning of the expected expansion.
I believe that those who have worked on this proposal have done so in earnest and with good intentions, but not with a long view or one that adequately protects in-town residential streets. There is a longer conversation to be had about what other planners, towns and cities are doing to protect in-town neighborhoods, but for now I think that it is important for in-town neighborhoods to unite in support of all others. In neighborhoods where relief is needed, let’s support that cause, and in neighborhoods where relief has already been granted, let’s work together to protect it. If we don’t unite, it is assured that our streets will be packed with more and more cars – it’s just a matter of time.