Open letter from Princeton merchants regarding parking

Parking in Princeton remains a thorny problem, and many are looking for a good solution. Recently, an organization named Sensible Streets initiated a campaign to counter the work of the Princeton Parking Task Force and its current proposal for a more equitable parking program in the municipality.

It is easy to see the power of making broad sweeping statements for both the pros and cons on a topic that is emotionally charged.

As residents and small business owners, we are writing to correct some of the talking points that have been presented by Sensible Streets. The work of the task force over the course of 3 years represents a true collaboration among a diverse community of neighbors. An open and inclusive process led to compromises, which reflect a give and take on the part of community members with many different viewpoints. The proposed program will bring more equity and harmonization to the perennially difficult parking landscape in Princeton.

For this letter, we have highlighted just a few of the most prominent assertions made by Sensible Streets, which need context and clarification:

Claim: Adding employee parking creates narrower driving lanes with more traffic congestion and obstructed sight lines for cars and children. Bus pickups and school drop-offs become more dangerous for children and drivers.

Fact: Parking on public streets is legal on almost every street in central Princeton. Limitations only concern the time of day and duration when cars can park on a street. Having a small number of additional parked cars does not make for a less safe municipality. In fact, street parking serves as a recommended traffic calming practice to deter speeding and cut-through traffic.

Claim: Employee parking in your neighborhood means narrower streets, more double parking when delivery trucks and contractors are on the street, and more congestion.

Fact: There is no evidence that this is true. Instead, having the permit parking for homeowners could guarantee a minimum of 1 parking spot for residents. Here is how the number of parking spots per street for employee permits will be determined under the proposal: The number of possible parking spaces is capped; then residents have first right of refusal for up to 2 permits; of left-over possible spots a maximum of 50% can be purchased for employee parking. For a street like Moran Ave, no employee permits would be issued. For a street like Linden Lane the maximum would be 9 permits.

Claim: Fewer spots for residents means more time searching for a parking place.

Fact: Virtually all residents have parking spaces in driveways that they own. Those who do not have a driveway will have more and guaranteed options for parking under current Parking Task Force proposals.

Claim: Subsidizing businesses like Lululemon and Starbucks with dedicated parking in front of your home enables them to pay their workers less. Businesses themselves should cover the cost of employee parking, not us.

Fact: The logic by which affordable employee parking would lead to a reduction in wages is hard to follow. In fact, the opposite holds: employers providing affordable parking ensure the employee retains more of their earnings.

Sensible Streets mentions that this proposal supports corporate stores. However, this parking program would actually help employees primarily of local businesses and not in the form of a subsidy but as a cost

to the businesses. The Task Force’s proposals do not add cost to taxpayers since permit fees would cover the program’s costs.

Claim: Packing streets with cars and asking employees and patrons to walk through residential neighborhoods late each night will lower the market values of our homes.

Fact: Employees are already walking through most neighborhoods at night to retrieve their cars. Yet Princeton property values keep rising. This proposal in fact serves as a vehicle to ensure that there is limited employee parking in neighborhoods as the number of permits is controlled per street, with residents given priority for permitting.

Claim: The proposal includes the hiring of a technology firm with license plate reader technology to patrol and scan neighborhoods 3x/day for a lion’s share of the revenues generated from parking.

Fact: In the early stages of discussions, use of technology was proposed as an option for monitoring parking permits. Through inclusive neighborhood meetings, this option was removed from consideration in July 2021. This is just one of many examples of how the Task Force has been evolving through public input.

Claim: Tree-lined streets are not a resource to be exploited. They are an asset to protect. Appropriating Princeton’s neighborhoods for commercial parking exploits Princeton’s distinct residential districts for the benefit of businesses and developers.

Fact: Tree-lined streets are not being exploited under this program. Community owned asphalt is being utilized to alleviate some of the economic pressures lower wage workers must endure, as well as provide much needed space for those with inadequate parking. Public property is generally meant to be used for the benefit of all, not just the private property owners adjacent to it.

Claim: Historic neighborhoods like Witherspoon-Jackson and the Western District deserve to be protected from commercial spillover. A vibrant downtown is not Princeton’s only asset.

Fact: A walk through the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood can reveal that half the neighborhood has been welcoming “spillover” for years. Many employees live in the WJ neighborhood and many walk through WJ to get to their vehicles at the Community Park lot. These “impacts” have not degraded the historic character of the neighborhood. They are simply part of that character.

Claim: The parking proposal has been described as “gargantuan” “far reaching” and “highly complex”. Why didn’t the Council make residents aware of the details and impacts?

Fact: As stated, the parking task force meetings have been open to the public, ongoing for years, and reported on by local media. Meetings have been held with all sections of town in a transparent process. It is crucial to note that Sensible Streets has, by contrast, been operating anonymously and without transparency.

Claim: Princeton residents pay handsomely for our streetscapes. Let’s put tax dollars to better use to solve the problem and create a more livable Princeton.

Fact: Princeton businesses, which are often owned by Princeton residents, also pay handsomely through their tax dollars. The parking program being proposed does not make Princeton any less livable. It simply allows a few more cars to park for a few more hours on some blocks in town.

We encourage all Princetonians to explore the parking proposal and join the conversation.

Gabrielle Carabone & Matthew Errico– The Bent Spoon

Laurent Chapuis – The Corkscrew

Jessica Durrie – Small World Coffee

Aubrey Haines – Princeton Property Partners

Kathy Klockenbrink – Jammin Crepes

Jon Lambert – Princeton Record Exchange

Raoul Momo – Terra Momo Restaurant Group

Heidi Moon – Miya’s Table & Home

Dean Smith & Joanne Farugia – JaZams Toys & Books

Dorothea von Moltke — Labyrinth Books


  1. This letter from the merchants in Princeton states that the Task Force’s proposal represents “an open and inclusive process” – “over the course of 3 years” – “a true collaboration among a diverse community of neighbors” .  WOW !  You could have fooled me.  Maybe all the businesses knew about all this – but it was a very rude and unwelcome shock to residents.  Suddenly in the spring of 2021, we were presented with a fait accompli – at first just a rumor a few people found out about. And then as it was confirmed, many residents started to react against it by telling each other about what was going to be imposed on them.  Then as we all started doing research and passing out flyers, more people found out, and more and more people were dismayed and upset.  

    Just the fact that the Task Force has felt obliged to rethink things in the past few months, and has been forced, by the extremely strong push back, to change some of their proposal (though still not nearly enough), shows that they had a very decided agenda, and very minimal input from any residents before this whole thing blew up recently.  If residents had had any input at all, the initial proposal would have been FAR different.  

    This is the usual thing, though on a much smaller scale, that happens in government in the USA these days.  Businesses, and business lobbyists, tell politicians what they want, and then they get EXACTLY that.  Whatever business wants, is what is decreed and put into law.  The PEOPLE be damned.  As you may have noticed, PEOPLE are not happy about this situation.

    The Council needs to completely re-think this whole mess.  The entire population of Princeton, and those in each individual neighborhood, should be involved in making the decisions.  We need to make sure that there is available commercial parking for all past and present business entities and projects, and also for all future projects BEFORE they are built.  Just continuously expanding the town’s need for parking, while doing nothing to prepare for that, and then expecting already over taxed residents to suffer the consequences, both monetarily (by new fees and financial demands) and by having to survive in, and cope with, deteriorating neighborhoods, is not fair or equitable in any way.  ENOUGH !!!

    In Richard K. Rein’s just posted condescending article on his own site, he makes fun of the “anguished letters” of residents, and tries to defend the Task Force.  His closing argument is telling, but works in exactly the opposite way from what he assumes:  He says “The high school neighborhood is a poster child of Princeton’s parking dilemma. It began when high school kids driving to school overran the neighborhood as they sought out free daytime parking. In response parking was limited to resident permit only during the school hours. Residents were given two free permits for each house plus two more free permits for guests. No wonder they don’t want anything to change.”  

    Yes indeed. Absolutely true.  We worked very hard, many years ago, to get that very good solution to the big problems we had, and for sure we don’t want to change now to something much worse.  Nor should any Princeton resident want anything less than that.  What we want is for EVERYONE in Princeton to have a very good solution, like ours, to the problems they now have.  That is equity – that is what PEOPLE want.  Residents know what they want on their own residential streets, and they should have what they want in their own neighborhoods.  Such an outcome is absolutely possible – Phyllis Teitelbaum’s plan, or something similar, is a good example.  It would work well for both residents and businesses.  Why not ?

  2. It’s all about the money and the greed for it. How can the town make money without raising taxes? Charge for parking permits, set up pot shops for a social justice slush fund to be used at will for whatever, charging all merchants to join a mandatory SiD whether they want it or not. What’s is next? Someone told me a charge for stormwater! Greed.

  3. Of course Rein panders to the merchants and officials. He is hoping by doing so they will advertise on his rag of a website. Did he ever do any hard hitting reporting when he owned US1? No, all sucking up to advertisers and paid stories masking as news.

  4. I find it interesting that none of the commenters are responding to the factual refutations to their claims.

  5. Why do we want to get with the car to the table? Central streets in the 2 blocks perimeter of Palmer’s Square should be closed to traffic of cars and delivering vehicles, and only open 12 am to 8 am. Lets promote healthy walking open environment on such a narrow streets.

  6. I rarely go to Princeton because it is too difficult to find a parking space, and being disabled I do not have the option of walking a few blocks. I would gladly use off site parking with jitney service though.

  7. Just because I label something FACT does not make it so. CLAIM: we have the highest inflation in 40 years. Oh, wait, that is a FACT. The narrative that residents will not be adversely affected is false. Ask the senior citizens who have to move because Princeton taxes have taxed them out of town or that there’s no parking for caregivers beyond two hours at a time. Has the council really considered how adding five new housing projects and one hotel while closing Witherspoon to deliveries will affect traffic and parking? There was even a suggestion to have people form lines of vehicles on the street to pick up their orders from the three pot shops around town. And these storefront RECREATIONAL pot shops will be open 9 am to 10 pm every single day, seven days a week. What will that do as customers park on queue on the street? There really should be more concrete numbers concerning residents and employees needing street parking and how many permits needed. We have a leaf blower code enforcement officer who could be utilized for parking during non leaf blowing enforcement seasons. Excluding the Western section from consideration for parking or a pot shop is not at all equitable.

    Thank you to the task force. Three years of dedication while trying to please all parties is admirable. Remember these are volunteers and some of them have worked to better Princeton for decades. They are our Princeton residents and neighbors. They have a lot of patience to sit through a 5+ hour meeting. I’d also like to add that Mayor Freda is a very good listener and always civil. I was sorry to hear there was one negative comment directed at him.

  8. I object to non-elected task force members driving town policies. Why do we have elections if officials we elect are beholden to businesses, the university and the cannabis lobby? I thought the mayor and council represented the people who live here. All the people in every section of town. Perhaps the council could hold a special ZOOM session to explain to our children how local government functions to make wise decisions to better the community, support the acclaimed schools and to provide for the safety of all children. Afterall, that is why many people move here.

  9. I’d like a council that listens and represents voters who voted them in to do what is best for Princeton, Princeton families, the top rated schools and the children. The reason many have chosen to live here despite the taxes. A unique idea.

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