Princeton officials ready to raise parking rates, tighten regulations

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Metered parking on most streets in Princeton will cost extra and be enforced by additional staff working seven days a week, as officials also limits how often motorists can park on the same block during the day.

The timing of those and other changes come as the municipality phases in new high-tech meters that give customers an option to pay through a mobile app. The Princeton Council is scheduled to vote on raising rates, the first hike since 2007, and making other parking rule changes at its meeting on Oct. 22.

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Council President Jenny Crumiller did not return phone calls seeking comment.

“The intention is to make parking easier and more convenient and also to have a system where the … goal is to have at least one empty spot per block, which will help prevent circling,” Mayor Liz Lempert said on Oct. 17.

Lempert said meter rates are increasing, overall, around town. For example, parking in the center of Princeton will go from $1.25 an hour to $2.25, she said.

An analysis by the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee, a volunteer group that advises the council on financial issues, found that the rate increases would bring in $2.7 million a year in meter revenue, up by $1 million.

Stricter enforcement is also part of officials’ thinking.

At the moment, people are supposed to pay for metered parking on Sundays, even though there is no enforcement that day. But that is about to change.

“People come into Princeton on the weekends from all over,” Lempert said. “And if we don’t have rules enforced on Sunday, then we’re going to run into the same problem where it will be impossible to find a spot because people are parked there all day.”

The town is growing its enforcement staff, who provide a key source of revenue to the municipal coffers, although officials have insisted there is no ticket quota.

The municipality plans to go from two parking enforcement officers to five, according to the Princeton Police Department. Salary details were not immediately available, but police said one of the new officers would be full-time and the two others would be part-time.

“I think if we’re going to have a rule on the books, we should enforce it,” Lempert said. “If we’re not going to enforce it, we should probably take it off the books.”

Officials also intend to have a so-called “overtime parking regulation.”

In an Oct. 3 memo she prepared for town officials, municipal engineer Deanna Stockton said the regulation “states that no person shall re-park a vehicle on either side of the same street in the same block in order to extend the vehicle’s parking time beyond the limits allowed for that area.”

“It’s prohibited to re-park on the same block within two hours of your having left,” Lempert said. “The reasoning is … to respond to desires from businesses. The main reason why we have limited parking is in response to businesses’ needs to have parking available for customers and to disincentivize people from parking all day in premium spots because the businesses depend on turnover in order to have enough customers.”

A representative of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce could not be reached for comment.

Lempert said officials want to combat those who “game” current parking laws “by inching their car down the street” through moving their vehicles from one spot to another. Officials have no documentation that problem is happening in Princeton, however.

“We didn’t have the ability to collect specific data on this for Princeton,” Lempert said. “But we know in places that have the meter technology that tracks this, that it is a significant problem in places that have two-hour restrictions in downtowns where parking is also premium.”

To enforce the law, officials said they intend to provide license plate readers to the enforcement officers. New rules are due to take effect next month.

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