With the opportunity of the Parking Study, the Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee undertook research on parking policies for Princeton to encourage a Bike & Walk lifestyle that is healthier for residents and visitors, alleviates traffic congestion in our downtown core, helps Princeton decarbonize our transportation, and contributes to vibrant business districts.
Based on the findings, PBAC:
- Requests inclusion of bicycle parking in the study;
- Offers parking strategies that allows other communities to provide access for all.
Even a cursory look at Princeton's streets show bicycles chained to parking meters, street furniture and trees.
PBAC requests that bicycle parking be included in the parking study. Designated bicycle parking, such as on-street bike corrals, can free up sidewalk space for pedestrians.
We refer to the chapter in the Bicycle Master Plan that covers parking, as well as to our earlier recommendations for bike parking (March, 2017).
We further suggest that large-scale bicycle parking be provided for special events with large attendance, such as Communiversity.
Accommodate bicycle lanes on corridors with high bicycle crash rates
In the PBAC recommendation (April 2017) on the Bicycle Master Plan we have proposed putting high priority on safe bicycle infrastructure on the corridors with high incidence of bicycle crashes: Witherspoon St, the Paul Robeson / Wiggins / Hamilton corridor (as well as North Harrison St). In the BMP, Parsons Brinckerhoff recommended that the car parking on these corridors be converted into bicycle lanes.
Removing on-street parking on these key corridors would:
- Encourage more bicycle traffic into the downtown area
- Help restore the visual aspect of the historic core
- Enhance the vibrancy of downtown businesses
Our research indicated that there are 176 car parking spaces along these corridors, or about 4% of the roughly 4200 spaces within the area of the current parking study.
On-Street Parking: priority for mobility-challenged
It is PBAC's position that destinations like the library, shops and restaurants must be accessible to everyone, regardless of their mobility.
We would therefore propose that priority for on-street parking be given to to the mobility challenged: the handicapped, the very elderly, and families with very young children. These designated parking spaces are to be sited on side streets as close as possible to the priority corridors (Witherspoon and Wiggins / Hamilton).
Time-share: parking / bike lanes
Princeton has an overnight parking ban on many of its streets, particularly in the downtown core. PBAC proposes that on corridors where this is appropriate, the overnight parking ban be replaced by a parking ban during daylight hours, when the parking lane is used as a bicycle lane.
On the other hand, in recognition that everyone has reasons for large celebrations several times during one's lifetime, we propose that designated bicycle lanes can be temporarily re-purposed as parking lanes, when properly marked as such, by permit from the town. This allows residents on streets with bike lanes to host large gatherings at their homes.
Intercept Parking outside historic center
Intercept parking keeps cars outside the downtown core, reducing traffic congestion and pollution. It is implemented in many cities and towns with an scenic or historic core. It helps reclaim the historic "feel" and contributes to both traffic calming and a vibrant retail sector. In Princeton's case, intercept parking spaces could be counted towards the number of spaces required for retail space.
Princeton University, as part of its campus expansion plan, is proposing to implement Intercept Parking: University staff and students commuting to Princeton from the Route 1 corridor are to be directed into a parking garage situated close to Route 1, from where they transfer onto either Tiger Transit or Zagster bikeshare to reach their destination on campus.
In our municipality, a precedent for Intercept Parking has been set by the Harrison Street Shopping Center, which sponsored a free shuttle to and from Communiversity.
A bike share station as well as shuttle service is crucial for Intercept Parking sites that are farther removed than walking distance from Palmer Square. For shuttle service to be effective, its frequency should be four times per hour or more.
The map below indicates the existing downtown parking garages (red "P"s) and sites where Intercept Parking (blue "P"s) might be possible. These sites could be used to expand on the Intercept Parking site proposed by Princeton University.
Possible sites for intercept parking (blue "P" on map):
- Monument Drive lot [ Rt 206 intercept ]
- YMCA lot [ Rt 206 intercept ]
- Lot at Valley / Mt Lucas / Terhune [ Rt 206 intercept ]
- Harrison St shopping center lot [ Rt 206 intercept ]
- Whole Earth and/or Bank of America lots [ Rt 27 intercept ]
- Princeton University site proposed near Washington Rd [ Rt 1 intercept ]
Wayfinding signs are a crucial element of successful Intercept Parking design. If the parking sites are garages, an availability indicator can be built in with relative ease.
Where necessary, Intercept Parking can take the form of a multilevel parking garage, possibly suitable for mixed use (with e.g. retail at street level). Parking garages are extremely efficient in footprint, as is illustrated in the comparison between the Princeton core and Quaker Bridge Mall.
Approx 2200 parking spaces within area shown of downtown Princeton (left map),
Approx 10,000 parking spaces at Quaker Bridge Mall (right map; both maps to same scale).
Managing Parking Demand through Pricing
PBAC acknowledges that the elimination of on-street parking in the corridors with high risk to bicycles will mean a decrease in parking revenue from those parking meters.
We offer several proposals for redesigning the parking rate structure, both to recover revenue from removed on-street meters, and to incentivise biking and walking rather than taking the car into town:
- On street parking to be shortest term and most expensive
- Enforcement for on street parking to be tightened
- Rates in the municipal garage (Spring St) to be the same as in commercial garages
- Municipal garage to offer lower rates to those who need a car: the handicapped, the very elderly, families with very young children. The precedent for this is that the commercial garages offer reduced rates to church groups, nearby residents, etc.)
- Rates can be raised for events like Communiversity and Commencement
- Rates for Intercept Parking to be significantly lower than for downtown parking.
Currently, on-street parking on Nassau St is cheaper than in the municipal garage on Spring St, which in turn is cheaper than parking in the commercial garages. The chart assumes that you "feed" the on-street meter. It happens.