The Princeton Station parking lot was outfitted with a new multispace meter system last week, supplementing existing permit spaces and ending a temporary period of free parking in the new lot, Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristin Appelget announced. The new meter system runs at 30 cents an hour.
Unlike traditional meter heads, the multispace parking system allows customers to pay using cash, credit cards or Smart Cards, which are issued by the municipality. Parking time can also be replenished using a cell phone. The machines operate on solar energy.
Assistant Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton explained that not all spaces required payment before the transition because the University and municipality were still in the process of deciding whether to adopt traditional, one-head meters or to implement a consolidated system.
“We didn’t want to put single head meters out there and then replace them with the multimeter system,” Stockton said, adding that choosing an appropriate vendor and seeking approval from the town and University contributed to the lag time between the lot’s opening in August and the implementation of the new metered system.
The University funded the multispace system, which allows users to pay for their numbered lot at a machine that services 85 spaces, as part of the University’s Arts and Transit Neighborhood development, which is set to include new performance and rehearsal spaces as well as a relocated Dinky train station.
“It’s been anticipated as part of this project because there have always been meters and permits in the station parking lot,” Appelget explained. “The change is that they’re now using a new technology, which is the multispace meter system.”
Although the multispace system is currently still in a pilot phase, it may be expanded to parking areas along Alexander Street and University Place if the program is successful.
“It’s something that we want to try out in a small scale,” Stockton said. “We want to compare the meter system we have now versus this multimeter system and see which one is a more reliable system.”
Stockton explained that as part of its determination the municipality will assess revenue measures, potential operational issues, how often the machines need to be serviced and the abundance of parking violations over the course of the pilot.
“People were delighted with the grace period,” Councilwoman Jo Butler said of temporary free parking in the Princeton lot.
Butler added, however, that the council heard complaints from residents who weren’t able to find spots in the lot as a result of overcrowding.
“We are eager to see what the impact will be from putting in the meters,” Butler said. “The Dinky ridership is down during this construction period, so there’s a lot to continue to watch there.”
The meters are in operation Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and overnight parking is allowed only by permit in metered spaces.
For drivers attending performances at McCarter Theatre, permit spaces can be used for free after 5 p.m.