Princeton Council looks set to adopt new restrictions on overnight parking in town. A vote has been scheduled for Monday night, June 8, to decide how much of the town will be subject to a ban on overnight parking.
In the former Borough, overnight parking was normally not allowed anywhere. In the former Township, overnight parking was allowed on most streets, with no permit. As part of the effort to consolidate Borough and Township ordinances, a task force has been meeting to try to agree how overnight parking should work in future. The task force presented three options to Council: (1) do nothing. (2) ban overnight parking everywhere in consolidated Princeton. (3) extend the boundaries of the existing no-overnight-parking zone.
Of those options, Option (2) has won out. This option would extend the ovenight parking zone to a new area (see map above), which means that some people, mostly in the former Township, who previously enjoyed the ability to park overnight for free, are going to lose that privilege. Among the streets that will be affected are Leigh Avenue, large chunks of Ewing Street and Linden Lane, Valley Road, Tee-Ar Place, and Western Way. Residents on these streets will have to apply for a (paid) permit, and demonstrate that they do not have on-site parking. The proposed restrictions will remove some anomalies, such as on John Street, which was divided by the Borough-Township line. Here, next-door neighbors currently have different rules governing access to overnight on-street parking. That will be harmonized by the proposed amendment.
One thing that has not been considered is the possibility of making it easier to park overnight on town streets. Members of the task force were not interested in expanding the areas where people could park on streets overnight for free. One reason that was cited was to promote walkability and to discourage car use. We’re all for that, but it is not clear that overnight parking bans would achieve either of these objectives. First, nobody would go without a parking space under the new regulations, because a permit scheme would exist to allow people without off-street parking to park on the street. (Specifically, a resident with no driveway can get one parking permit per ‘dwelling unit’, for $120 per year.) As such, the new rules will not stop anybody from parking a car.
As for walking, there are several challenges facing pedestrians in Princeton, but cars parked overnight is hardly one of them. The much greater problems are cars speeding, and failing to yield at crosswalks. Cars parked on the street can potentially reduce effective vehicle speeds, by narrowing travel lanes. Taking away overnight parking may therefore have the unintended effect of making it easier for drivers to speed. As for crosswalks, many of them are obscured by cars parked nearby. This is a problem at all times of day, not just at night. Action to improve sight-lines by limiting parking near crosswalks would be welcome, and increased enforcement of crosswalk encroachment is also desirable.
Municipal officials deserve applause for considering walkability for policy matters, and for recognizing that the purpose of our streets is not simply for storing cars. But in this case, it’s not clear that restricting parking will make a big difference to those who are trying to get around town without using a personal auto.
What effect do you think the proposed parking restrictions will have on walkability? Do you think the extended parking ban is a good idea?