Princeton parking permit plan is not about equity

Dear Editor:

“Alternative facts” and “campaign of misinformation” were phrases used in the Town Topics by Leticia Fraga, the President of the Council and member of the Permit Parking Task Force (PPTF), to describe the opposition the group received from Princeton’s residential community about the proposed permit parking plan. I had to re-read the article to believe the language.  How is it possible that our elected officials – who are also our neighbors – are freely using such divisive, politically charged words typical of the Trump-era to describe a strong and informed opposition to the current proposed parking plan? To add insult to injury, the PPTF is asking for town unity while in parallel attacking opposing viewpoints. It is completely insincere.  We don’t all always need to agree on everything, but this polarizing language has no business being in community dialogue.

It’s equally important to highlight that the PPTF council members and some supporters cast a morally depraved shadow on neighbors who voice opposing views, while in fact this plan has nothing to do with social equity but with the financial interests of the select few, at the expense of residents (more details below). Such undertone sets an unsavory atmosphere in our dialogue.  It’s a dirty and counterproductive tactic that needs to end. 

Putting aside all the noise and drama, has the PPTF considered the possibility that the current plan is not great and should be revised? Simple as that.  I watched recorded meetings where many residents were expressing concerns for months. Yet, nothing in the plan changed and the PPTF claims to have been “blindsided” by the recent opposition led in part by a volunteer group of residents who are running Sensible Streets.

The PPTF members may sincerely believe in their plan along with a few loud supporters (mainly from the congested Jackson-Witherspoon streets), but we live in a larger community with a broader set of opinions, which council members are elected to represent. The plan is believed to be deeply flawed to a large number of residents who read the proposed plan, as I did. No compromises to the plan have been made, which sends the message that the PPTF doesn’t care about alternate points of view.  Canceling the planned community meeting and dismissing opposition as “misinformation” and “alternative facts” only re-affirms this unfortunate conclusion. 

Now to the parking plan’s content…

Public streets are not private, they’re public and don’t belong exclusively to residents. This argument is often repeated by council members. Streets are indeed public, but the argument is flawed. What would explain the existence of parking rules, meters and parking zones? Following PPTF’s logic, there should be no parking rules whatsoever, it should be free for all. But this isn’t the case. Parking rules exist for many valid reasons. Adjusting parking rules to whatever you like, for whatever reasons, because “it’s a public street” is an empty argument.

Both articles in the Town Topics issue claim that the ultimate goal of the parking proposal has been to improve the quality of life for many residents whose parking needs are not being met. Has anyone on the PPTF asked the question of how this problem came to be in the Jackson-Witherspoon section of town? I won’t spell out the obvious. Following the same upside-down logic, it is precisely the messy situation that the PPTF is intending to spread to other neighborhoods. Residents are telling you that we don’t want it, please hear us. There must be more creative solutions that actually fix parking challenges for residents and visitors. I can personally share some ideas to help us reach a healthy compromise. 

In the proposed plan, the cost of parking for business employees will be less on residential streets than in parking garages.  How would this plan discourage business employees who pay for more expensive monthly parking, from parking on residential streets? 

The proposed parking plan will supposedly pay for itself. If it suddenly costs residents to pay or be fined, it will most certainly affect the resale value of our home properties, especially those that have no/limited parking spaces.  Values of homes located in the western section with park-like streets will also be impacted.  Visitors and residents will lose the picturesque streets once they are packed with cars.  Residents will have to deal with the pollution, litter and noise that congestion inevitably brings.  In the end, the parking plan would impact all Princeton residents because quality of life issues and property value depreciation will not be limited to ½ mile radius. It’s naïve and short-sighted to think it would. The plan will solve nothing and only harm our community.  It will generate more problems by creating an unsustainable parking situation, deteriorate our quality of life and damage our environment.

Who benefits from the current proposed plan? Business owners who will need to spend less on employee parking and the town that will be collecting the permit fees and fines from residents, businesses, contractors and all other visitors.  Perhaps this is the reason there are two business owners on the PPTF and incomplete representation of residents from all Princeton neighborhoods.  One of the business owners is representing the Merchants Association, who according to the recent opinion article on Planet Princeton, are requesting 800 parking spots! Businesses would receive anonymity about which business has how many spots.  How will anonymity assure equity to businesses of all different sizes? Seems like the exact opposite will be achieved.  “Everyone will be equal, but some will be more equal than others” is the net result of this plan.  Residents stand to lose the most.  Perhaps this outcome was not the original intent of the PPTF, but this is what it currently yields, and that is unacceptable.     

I implore you to go back to the drawing board and start fresh.  At previous meetings, residents asked to see evidence and data that supports the need for the messy solution of expanding business permit parking to residential neighborhoods. An independent Parking Study was done for Princeton in 2017 recommended that the PPTF broker shared-parking agreements to unlock the existing, available and unused parking supply already in Princeton. The Parking Study is a long and detailed document that I took the time to read. It did not recommend the messy solution that the PPTF supports.  There is a lot of other useful information in that study, complete with helpful data to come up with alternate solutions.  The public has yet to see alternate solutions proposed by the PPTF. Let’s work together to create better options!

Whatever the ultimate parking solution, it must be reviewed with all Princeton neighborhoods collaboratively and should not harm residents.  

Best Regards,

Rita Rafalovsky


  1. As soon as a task force is named you can be assured that residents are not represented because the task forces rule by unanimous quorum regardless of taxpayer opinion. Your taxes are used for free, “self-funded” ordinances and projects that pop into any council members head all in the name of equity but not for the benefit of Princeton residents, the actual taxpayer. Remember us?

  2. I can’t say I’m overly sympathetic to this letter writer’s perspective. “Values of homes in the western section with park like streets will …be impacted. Visitors and residents will lose the picturesque streets once they are packed with cars.” This seems to imply that the residents of the western section are more deserved of having the space in front of their houses be free of parked cars. House values are also positively impacted by proximity to downtown and with that proximity comes a certain density of parking.

  3. The entire process by which all proposals from the city council came about has been head to toe utterly antidemocratic. If one needed confirmation that the council represents business and University interests, this case amply provides one. Princeton is a company town with two bosses: PU and the Merchants Association. Nothing in the new proposal changes the fact that the council expects residents to subsidize business.
    Maybe we should start a local tax boycott?

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