I am a graduate student at Princeton University writing in favor of pedestrianizing Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Spring Street.
During the pandemic, my friends and I have been frequent visitors to the new and inviting Witherspoon StrEATery. It is not surprising that we visit the restaurants and shops on Witherspoon more. Other area businesses benefit as well. Previously, we would take our lunch back to campus to eat. Now, with on-street seating, we are more likely to walk over to the Princeton Running Company to check out the new shoes, browse the books at Labyrinth, treat ourselves to bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea or ice cream at Palmer Square after lunch. Given how much business owners stand to benefit from increased pedestrian traffic and expanded outdoor dining, I hope they will champion our shared cause.
Our shared public space is extremely valuable as it is the place where we build community; designating it for parking is not the best land use. It takes up an immense amount of space. Drivers circle the block looking for on-street parking, driven by the “random reward” of the occasional spot opening up, adding to congestion and pollution. Cars on the street discourage socializing: they are noisy, making it hard to have a conversation. It would be much better if those who wanted parking went straight to the garage and walked to their destination. On the way, they might discover businesses they did not know about and run into friends.
Princeton is not a strip mall, and should not aspire to become one. New Jersey has no shortage of strip malls – lonely places with lots of vacancies and fierce Amazon.com competition. Let’s be different. Let’s be a place where we can all thrive. Let’s be the place we want to be. Let’s be a fun, people-friendly, and equitable Princeton.
I hope you will weigh in at the council meetings where Witherspoon Street will be discussed, scheduled for Dec. 7 and 21.