On November 5, Princeton will elect two new members of Princeton Council. Three candidates are standing: incumbents Jenny Crumiller (D) and Patrick Simon (D), and challenger Fausta Rodgriguez-Wertz (R). We asked each candidate six questions relating to walkability, affordability and land use in Princeton. (Note: Walkable Princeton is not making an official endorsement of any particular candidate.) We are running each candidate’s answers on successive days of this week. You can read answers from Jenny Crumiller here. Today we have answers from Patrick Simon (see below). On Friday we will have answers from Fausta Rodriguez-Wertz. We thank all the candidates for taking the time to respond to us!
1. According to US Census figures, there are 22,000 people who drive into Princeton to work every day. Do you think it might be advantageous for some of these people to live in Princeton instead, so they could walk or bike to work?
2. Expanding transit options in Princeton would cost money. How do you feel about increasing taxes to fund better transit service?
I think that is a terrible idea at this time. Five years after the great recession, too many people in our community are still struggling to make ends meet, and as a result, we are going to have to manage local property taxes very carefully in the near term. Realistically, for the next few years, there will not be sufficient municipal property tax revenue coming in to invest in medium to large scale transit improvements. Any such revenue would have to come from other sources.
3. Many towns are adding bike lanes to make it easier and safer for people to choose cycling instead of driving. It’s hard to fit bike lanes on many streets in Princeton, because the streets are narrow and much space is dedicated for on-street parking. If Princeton was going to add bike lanes, but had to remove on-street parking to do so, would that be something you would support?
While I am in favor of expanding the bike lane network in and around town, I think framing this issue as “adding bike lanes comes at the cost of removing existing parking (and/or negatively impacting traffic)” is a losing strategy. The approach that the Traffic and Transportation Committee and recent municipal governments have endorsed to address exactly this issue is to add sharrows, clearly marked shared bike/car lanes. They determined this to be the most cost-effective approach for our community, and that effort has my support.
4. As a Council member, what have you done/do you plan to do to make it easier and safer for people to walk/bike to work or to school?
On council, I supported the expansion of the daytime FreeB service, preservation of the morning and evening commuter FreeB service, route improvements to the commuter FreeB service, and attempts to improve public awareness of these services.
I have worked with colleagues and staff to explore options for the municipality to assume sidewalk repair costs in certain limited circumstances. We are still in the process of doing our due diligence on this issue, and expect to have a policy recommendation within a few weeks. I have also supported recommendations to expand the sidewalk network in the community, especially along routes that are currently classified under state regulations as hazardous for students walking to school.
I have served on the Alexander Street University Place Task Force, which includes representatives of Princeton University, citizen volunteers, and representatives of the governing body. We have studied traffic and transit issues and potential solutions along Alexander Street and University Place, and expect to wrap up our study and recommendations in the next few months. Note: the ASUP Task Force is planning two public presentations on the options under review, one scheduled for November 9 as a dedicated public meeting, and the other scheduled for either December 5 or 12, at a Planning Board meeting.
I also serve as a trustee of the MOU Transit Trust Fund, and we are working to determine where a limited investment could markedly improve transit options in Princeton.
To better inform myself of regional efforts already underway to address many of these problems, I recently attended a meeting of the Central Jersey Transportation Forum, a regional planning body working on many of these same issues.
5. Do you agree with the recommendations of the Route 1 Growth Strategy report, which called on local towns (including Princeton) to create transit-oriented workforce housing by “changing plans and zoning to encourage mixed-used development at transit-supportive densities”?
At this point, I am open to such a possibility, but I feel this needs further study as to exactly what it means for Princeton. My decision as to whether or not to support these policies in Princeton will come down to whether we find that we can implement zoning changes that support increased density without worsening traffic problems, while efficiently managing municipal infrastructure and operational costs, and without causing harm to existing neighborhoods.
6. Infill development in Princeton often takes many years or even decades, and involves costly court battles. Are there any changes you would suggest for Princeton’s planning/zoning process to make it inclusive, efficient, and to cut down on legal costs for the town?
I support a municipal study of redevelopment options along Witherspoon St. I also support a comprehensive review of local planning and zoning ordinances and the Master Plan. Our goal as a community should be to develop zoning that is fair and that is fairly enforced, and the end result should be that under our zoning ordinances, variances would rarely be granted to developers. And I will work in the coming months on the creation of local Advisory Planning Districts, in order to give neighborhoods a formal role in planning and zoning decisions.