Less than a week after the election, the Township Committee folded its tent and gave the University carte blanche for development plans that involve moving the Dinky out of the Borough into the campus service zone. Fortunately, Borough Council continues to seek ways to preserve the Dinky terminus and/or the right of way for an eventual extension of light rail to Nassau Street. Council will hold two critical meetings that Dinky supporters should attend.
* One is this Tuesday, November 29th, at Borough Hall beginning at 7:30 p.m. The meeting is a special meeting at which Council will consider the transit-only zone proposal and will also consider an ordinance that would impose a special improvement district (SID) on the Alexander Street/University place area. If you cannot attend, please use the email addresses below to make your views known to Council members
* The second meeting is next Tuesday, December 6th, at Borough Hall at 7:30 pm. At this meeting, Borough Council will hold its final hearing on the Arts and Transit ordinance. If the transit-only zone succeeds, we hope that the zone will be incorporated in an appropriate way in the ordinance. If not, we urge you to oppose the ordinance. We do not believe that Council should approve an ordinance that would degrade our mass transit link to the junction. Continue reading
This is a brief news flash on the results of today’s election. Both the Township and the Borough voted to consolidate. Yina Moore won the Borough Mayoral race by a margin of 100 votes. The Democratic Council candidates won with larger margins.
The Borough Mayoral candidates had clear differences of opinion on how to proceed with the Dinky issue. The Republican favored acquiescing to the University’s claim of right to move it and proceeding to implement an MOU study that would consider an alternative route to Nassau via Alexander Street. Yina Moore favors continued dialogue with the University to persuade it to rethink the plan to relocate the Dinky.
As we move forward with planning for a consolidated Princeton, we hope the University will heed the message from the electorate and reconsider its plans to relocate the Dinky terminus.
Save the Dinky does not endorse candidates. However, there are clear differences between the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate on the Dinky issue.
The Democratic candidate, Yina Moore, is a professional planner, with extensive experience in transit planning and policy. She takes the position that the proposal to move the Dinky is bad public policy because it will discourage pedestrian users and encourage more commuters to get to the Junction by automobile. In the debate sponsored by the League of Women voters, she stated that the question for the public should not be whether the University has a right to move the Dinky but whether it is the right thing to do. She would continue to work to persuade the University to change its mind. She believes the University can build the arts campus with the Dinky in its current location.
The Republican candidate, Jill Jachera, is a former employment law attorney who now counsels employers. She does not believe that anyone wants the Dinky moved. In an October 4 statement to Borough Council, she argued that the public may desire the terminus to stay where it is but said that there is a difference between desires and rights and that the public should accept that the University has a right to move it. In the LWV debate, she indicated her view that if the University does not get its requested zoning for the arts campus the University will move the station anyway. In this worst case scenario, the public would lose the current Dinky location and would lose the arts campus. She worried that continued resistance to the University’s campus plans will annoy the University and may impair negotiations for their voluntary contribution to the Borough. She would embrace the MOU and work on the study of alternative mass transit options to Nassau Street.
For a fuller statement of the two candidates views, see the verbatim transcript of answers given at the League of Women Voters debate and also see the written answers given to League question that can be found under the post “Mayoral candidates respond to League of Women Voters’ question about A&E District and the Dinky” Information can also be found on the candidates’ websites.
Borough Council Candidates:
Barbara Trelstad (incumbent) : Voted for a resolution in June urging the University and New Jersey Transit to reconsider the plan to relocate the Dinky. Has consistently argued that moving it further away from Nassau Street is bad public policy.
While reiterating belief that the plan to relocate the Dinky is bad public policy, voted to approve the the Memorandum of Understanding with the Township and Princeton University, stating that MOU would allow much needed traffic and transportation studies to begin upon signing. Voted on the Planning Board to approve the zoning ordinances for the E-5 and AET. Ordinances will go back to the governing bodies.
Heather Howard: “We ought not to be thinking about moving the dinky further away at a time when we’re trying to maintain the vibrancy of our downtown.” (from live candidate forum sponsored by LWV). “Clearly, the Borough’s relationship with the University is not what it should be. Although there has been a rough stretch recently, we have a strong history, and a good relationship is in both our interests. The community benefits from having a vibrant University, and the University benefits from a thriving community surrounding it. It’s important to be a strong advocate for the residents when dealing with the University – to stand up to them when necessary. Respect and courtesy are critical, but sometimes we will disagree. Most importantly, good neighbors should always be talking…The community benefits from having a vibrant University, and the University benefits ffrom a thriving community surrounding it. ” (from LWV questions). May have to recuse on actual votes on issue.
Peter Marks: Improve the existing Dinky service, i.e.: maintain its current alignment, reopen both existing stations; buy its right-of-way; create new, reasonably priced, municipal owned, structured parking adjacent to the stations; and replace NJT with a competent operator. Veto proposed bottlenecks on Alexander. Greatly reduce existing zoning on both sides of Alexander. Maintain our long tradition of tree-lined green spaces (not ten story buildings) as the “gateway” to Princeton.
Dudley Sipprelle: A “memorandum of understanding” was recently concluded with Princeton University which should prove beneficial to all parties involved. The community gets an enhanced cultural venue which will attract more visitors, business and tax revenues. The University has made several significant commitments, including an upgrade of the “Dinky” and major funding for a wide-ranging study of the transportation needs of the community. This is significant because traffic congestion is a major Princeton problem. Of immediate benefit, the University will install lighted crosswalks across the perilous black tunnel which is now downtown Nassau Street after dark.
Read the full op-ed on Planet Princeton by clicking link in right column or copying the url: http://planetprinceton.com/2011/op-ed-princeton-needs-sustainable-mass-transit/
With congestion, fuel prices, and the danger of climate change increasing over time, we need to find more sustainable solutions for Princeton. Losing the Dinky would be a major setback. Just the disruption alone during construction of the proposed arts complex could doom the Dinky. Without the Dinky, we will find ourselves unable to be part of the economic vitality of towns with rail connections over the long-term. We need to look ahead, and we need the university administration to take a new stance and think long-term. Putting everyone into buses crisscrossing our town is not a viable solution financially or in terms of commuting time, and it does not fit into the vision of most for our town.
At its meeting on Tuesday, October 25th, the Borough Council will revisit the Arts education zoning ordinance that it referred to the Planning Board a few months ago.
The Planning Board has now sent it back to Council for another look, with suggested changes and an extended comment about its compliance (or lack thereof) with the Master Plan.
Unlike the Township, the Borough Council has been consistent in raising intelligent questions about the University’s proposals and in welcoming public input. For those who continue to hope that informed public discussion can actually lead to better decisions by government, this is another evening meeting to attend. Please be there if you possibly can.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was approved by the Township Committee this evening (October 24th), paving the way for the University’s rezoning requests and–if the University prevails in the lawsuit over the 1984 contract–the eventual relocation of the Dinky terminus to a point near the Lot 7 garage.
Unlike the Borough Council meeting on the MOU, which provoked much public comment and extended discussion by Council, the Township Committee proceeding was relatively staid. Three members of the public argued that the MOU was ill-advised if not downright illegal, one argued that its provisions were technically flawed, and a fourth praised it and suggested that a silent majority of Township residents supported it.
The Township Committee, after a brief exchange of comments, passed the MOU by unanimous vote. Several members indicated that they wished the University were not planning to move the Dinky but stated that they believed there was nothing to do about this except strike the best bargain possible. They referred to advice from counsel that the University has “a right” to make the move. On balance, this was a predicted outcome from a Township Committee that seems to have bent over backwards to accommodate the University. To date, Township residents have no official statement from the Township Committee to affirm the Dinky’s importance as a walkable public transit resource.
The op-ed appears on Planet Princeton .
Here is Mr. Marks’ summary of the Board’s analysis of Dinky parking requirements:
For me, the highlight of the July session was Marvin Reed’s insistence that the board define the distance from the proposed parking lot to the proposed rail station, followed by his remarkable assertion, delivered almost as an aside, that it makes no difference whether the distance is 100 feet or 1,000 feet. The board obligingly decided to set 1,000 feet as the standard — thereby ensuring that a large number of current and potential Dinky riders will find it easier simply to drive to the Junction — assuming, that is, that they can get out of Princeton when traffic flows have been choked off on Alexander. The charitable explanation for this piece of idiocy is that the board fails to understand that proximate parking is a condition precedent to a successful, self-sustaining rail link.
See the responses to all three League questions at the League of Women Voters’s website
What are the key issues that you think are most important to resolve in achieving an agreement with the University about the Arts, Education and Transit district?
Ms. Jachera: Transportation issues are of critical importance. They affect many aspects of the quality of life in our town. The MOU signed by Borough Council allocates funding for a transportation study to develop a comprehensive transit plan. After the study is completed, I will work with the University to implement the plan and encourage the use of public transportation.
Ms. Moore: Princetonians are understandably excited about the proposed arts education district. However, Princetonians want to lead in progressive land use planning, and they want the University to be part of that leadership. A major barrier to unequivocal public support for the arts district has been the proposal to relocate the Dinky and privatize the right-of-way. The divide could be healed if the University can be persuaded to rethink this part of its plan.
In a story posted last Friday on last week’s late night Planning Board session, the Daily Princetonian reported that the Planning Board opposed the Dinky move. Click this link for article.
In a story today on the same meeting, reporting that the Board ultimately voted to approve the ordinances requested by the University for its arts education complex, the Trenton Times has a different take on the Board’s assessment of the Dinky move. Click this link for story:
The Times reports that the Planning Board could not determine whether the plan to move the Dinky was “necessary or desirable” for the arts complex.