Revised parking permit plan brings downtown parking problems to residential areas

Dear Editor:

Despite changes, the Parking Task Force unfortunately still indiscriminately recommends employee parking permits in several residential neighborhoods.

Consider the neighborhood between Princeton, Murray, Prospect, and Nassau Avenues, grouped arbitrarily with the tree streets (Linden, Pine, Maple, Chestnut, etc.). Residences will be able to buy up to two 7×24 parking spots for $240/year combined if they lack sufficient driveways. Local businesses get 50% of unused spots at $30/mo/spot.

These neighborhoods have markedly different traffic, density, building types — and zoning! Yet the plan damages both neighborhoods.

The tree streets are densely zoned, with smaller houses and duplexes, many with limited off-street parking, and designed for in-town walkable living.  They have commensurately lower house prices and property taxes, offering a foot-hold for new and old. In contrast, the Princeton/Murray area is the border of the low-density “green” neighborhoods to the south. It has historically buffered residences from encroachment by businesses and Princeton University. Houses have gardens and long driveways. Princeton Avenue is a showcase street down which Christmas trolleys take sightseers to *illustrate* a green neighborhood in harmony with downtown. Parades start on this street.

In the tree streets the plan radically incentivizes two-car ownership by guaranteeing two spots per residence; for those lacking, the town will provide public asphalt at a fraction of the taxes paid by others on their garages. It pulls cars currently housed elsewhere and in the small private lots back onto the streets. It reduces turnover of existing spaces with all-day employee parking. It paints a target on the area attracting outward-commuting families and developers. Any one-time windfalls for some will rapidly be outpaced by reduced affordability for everyone else (cue “affordable housing” and tax battles).

While increasing existing residential demand, the plan simultaneously sucks new in-bound commuters into both neighborhoods. The  $1/day all-day parking, compared to high rates and time limits in-town, are massive incentives for existing and newly enticed employees to commute.

As Princeton/Murray area houses have sufficient driveways, the plan summarily transfers 50% of street parking to locally connected businesses. New demand and overflow will swamp this area. Traffic will flow on feeder streets all day long as shifts change. There are no benefits for owners and property values will go down.

In short, the plan exports the parking problems of downtown to residential areas. It will increase internal demand in the dense Tree streets, and inject further problems into the low-density Princeton/Murray neighborhood. It confiscates private and public property value in both neighborhoods for the benefit of local business owners, out-of-town commuters and developers hell-bent on expanding downtown.  

We appreciate the Task Force has good intentions. However, if approved, the plan will directly contravene the town’s commitments to reducing cars, improving bicycling/walkability, maintaining affordability, and the promises made during consolidation to protect distinct neighborhoods and property values near downtown against relentless growth.

In particular, employee permit parking on any residential street is a bad idea.  Council and task force should reject it once and for all.

Frans Coetzee and Catherine Peters, Princeton Avenue
Catherine Hegedus, Murray Place
Jennifer Geoghan and Robert Finnegan, Aiken Avenue
Peter Aurup and Karen Aurup, Princeton Avenue
Olivier Brigaud, Aiken Avenue
Frances Zeitler, Princeton Avenue


  1. I am not sure why the task force is not more focused on coming up with real solutions. The university also has a parking problem, and has been known to undertake projects to help the town. This seems like a time when we can get a win:win. The lot (I believe it is lot 10) behind Thomas Sweet between Nassau and Williams is an ideal location for a multi-story parking garage. The university can allow employees to park there during school days, and allow the public to park there nights and weekends. As long as it doesn’t add more traffic to Washington Road and the surrounding streets during rush hour or when students are moving between classes, this could be a boon for both the town and the university. Will it cost money? Yes. But the current parking lot is not very optimized, and if the hours are limited for non-university parking, it wouldn’t exacerbate an already difficult
    traffic problem.

    Also, I am still trying to understand how/why the new hotel isn’t adding sufficient parking. We are only exacerbating the problem and looking to make the residents who live in town pay the price.

  2. First, a thank you to Princeton Ave and Murray neighbors. The light show is really nice to see on foot.

    Residents surely know, upon moving in, about their own car ownership and their own off-street parking situation. Both as tenant and owner, I made choices based on these criteria.

    Overnight on-street parking should be limited. Cars should not be stationed indefinitely on the roadway. In the winter, snow plows need unhindered access.

    There is a daily rhythm to parking in the tree streets. The first block off Nassau and Spruce closer to Moore fills up around 8 AM on weekdays. Whether it’s university staff, grad students, people working in the local businesses, they are parking a little out from the center and walking in the last half mile to mile. Evenings and weekends it clears out. Some uptown restaurant goers park. We never see game day parking in the tree streets. And as mentioned, overnights to early mornings, the streets are clear.

    As the letter writers mention, the proposed fee for a 24 hour permit is an insult. It is out of line with what it costs to rent a parking space. There is a partial defense. Residents can buy up all the permits. Then there will be no business parking on the street, neither employees nor customers. That would be sad. It is useful to have short term parking close in to the town center, and more relaxed parking rules further out.

    Traffic and parking patterns form a complex system built by the uncoordinated choices of many people. Some humility is in order before enacting wholesale change.

    How about leave parking alone in my neighborhood? There are so many people reliant on roughly the way things are.

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