Should parking meters be installed on Grand?

The paper on the other side of the river is pushing for meters on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, over the objections of businesses on the street.

“Metered parking would bring the area in line with other popular urban commercial strips and raise needed funds for the city,” the Star Tribune editorial says today.

Grand is an established destination with numerous bars, restaurants and shops. Finding parking to patronize those businesses is a growing challenge. Meters would drive more turnover, allowing more customers access to spots for quick trips. And meters would likely encourage more walking, biking and transit use to get into and out of the area.

Mayor Chris Coleman wants to install over 500 meters to bring in over $1 million in the city, which has a $10 million deficit on the horizon.

Will people just stop driving to the area?

Some of the business on the street think so.

Yesterday, a few dozen held a protest at Dixie’s parking lot yesterday, KARE reports.

“I’m really angry about the idea because we have permit parking on the block behind us. We only have one side of the street parking here because of the beer trucks and delivery trucks. So there’s never enough parking,” Billie Wahlstrom, who lives on Lincoln Avenue, said.

Some residents and businesses says the plan has less to do with solving a parking “ecosystem” problem than making a cash grab.

“Can you imagine having to pay $2 (in parking) to buy an ice cream cone?” Gary Huffman, owner of the Grand Ole Creamery told the Pioneer Press.

“The city has made it very clear that it is not about helping the residents or the business,” Jon Perrone, executive director of the Grand Avenue Business Association. “It is about revenue.”

A representative of the mayor’s office acknowledge the city handled the proposal “poorly”.

  • John

    “Can you imagine having to pay $2 (in parking) to buy an ice cream cone?” Gary Huffman, owner of the Grand Ole Creamery told the Pioneer Press.

    Drive by Izzy’s location in Minneapolis some time. If it’s above freezing, the line is usually out the door. No free parking down there. People seem to have no problem paying $2 to park to buy an ice cream cone.

  • Keith P.

    As a consumer, of course I’d like to keep parking free on that stretch. But the city really is leaving $$$ on the table – it makes sense that it should be metered like pretty much everywhere else. Perhaps they can strike a compromise and have it 8-5 M-F only?

  • Kassie

    I’m all for the meters. If there are meters on University, there should be meters on Grand. But also, two weekends ago I had brunch on Grand. There was no street parking, so I parked in a ramp, and paid. I would rather that money go to the city than to a private company. Plus, encouraging biking/walking isn’t bad AND having more of turn over of the street spaces is probably better for business.

  • Nathan Hunstad

    Free parking isn’t free. No parking spots? That’s because we’ve subsidized driving with free parking. I fully support dynamic parking pricing to ensure that 10-15% of spots are always open. Then you won’t have a problem with no spots available. And the commenter is right that people won’t drive if parking is paid. They will walk, bike, or bus instead, which are good things.

  • Baba

    They should welcome this. Nothing is better for business than turnover. How many drivers are squatting on Grand all day because they don’t have to pay? I hate meters as a consumer, but realize that they are good for businesses and deal with it.

  • Lobd

    There are many residents along that stretch, and the parking will be metered in the evening. Where will they park? As a non-resident but frequent patron, I won’t bother with getting a croissant or bagel or a sandwich if I have to pay to park. I will go elsewhere. If my kids were still little and I had to get them out of a car, into a stroller, down to the pay station and back to the car THEN get to my destination? Forget it. I would stay home.

    • Kassie

      Lol! If there aren’t meters, do you just leave your kids in the car? Is an extra 20 feet with kids really that much of a burden? No. No it isn’t.

      • Jack

        Well – if it was my son, it might have been more a question of corralling him and keeping him out of danger, not that he was or is a burden. Best invention was “pay at the pump” as I could pay for gas without leaving him alone in the car unattended.

        I tend to agree with Lobd on this one.

      • Lobd

        Of course not. But I would choose destinations that were convenient. During those early years with our precious cargo, yeah, trekking off to a PAY STATION would have made a difference. Some days even digging quarters out and getting them in to an old-fashioned meter next to the vehicle would have been a deterrent.

  • MikeB

    Grand Ave is a destination. Businesses will get traffic if they give consumers a reason to stop in.

  • KTFoley

    I haven’t followed this closely enough to learn the answers to two questions:

    1. The metered spaces in downtown Minneapolis & St Paul are pretty roomy. How many physical parking spaces will the meters yield, in comparison to the number of cars that currently park on the same stretch of street?
    2. What does this change mean for businesses that are currently required to provide a certain number of parking spaces to meet the ordinances and get their licenses to open?

    • KTFoley

      I’ll pose a supposition in answer to my second question: Those businesses that have off street parking on Grand already post that the spaces are for the specific business only. A likely outcome is that they’ll end up installing gates/monitors, and towing violators. In both downtown Minneapolis and St Paul, they already do that: ever tried to park in Cosetta’s? Or seen the fellows at the camera shop next to Surdyk’s kicking people out of their lot during the shop’s business hours?

  • Gary F

    The insatiable beast must be fed. And the parking meter revenue will not satisfy the beast. Nothing will.

    Ever notice how lately St Paul government kinda has their minds make up before they bring it to the people and St Paul business owners?

  • Rob

    I give no credence to the Strib editorial. Minneapolis’ meter-centric parking is a pain. I have been shopping and eating at Grand Ave businesses for 20 years; not once have I wished there were meters. And the businesses have made it unequivocally clear that they don’t want them. This is the classic case of a solution in search of a problem.

    • Kassie

      Can you give an example of ANYWHERE that both business and customers want parking meters. By your logic there shouldn’t be meters anywhere since no one but the city wants them. But unlike you, the city has to maintain the roads and sidewalks and consider the needs of all residents. By implementing this sort of use fee, one that anyone can avoid by walking a few extra blocks, it is able to meet its needs.

  • Veronica

    Yes. Clearly, parking meters have killed Uptown.

  • billconnell

    Go to that stretch of Grand Ave on any busy evening, and watch the cars. At least 20% of the traffic is from cars repeatedly circling, trying to find nearby parking while offstreet spaces sit open. It’s not a capacity problem, it’s a problem of expectations. We need to start treating Grand Ave like a popular shopping district in a busy city, because that’s what it is; a dense commercial district in an old neighborhood. Install the meters, advertise the off-street lots, people will gripe then keep visiting and all will be fine.

    • KTFoley

      Really? Which off-street spaces do you mean?

      This neighborhood is quite different from uptown & downtown Mpls or downtown St Paul, where there was quite a lot of off-street paid parking before the new meters went in.

      I live in the area. My opinion about there not being enough infrastructure in place to solve the actual problem rather than just monetize it or try to force people out of their cars is based on these observations of the parking landscape:
      A. Enthusiastic & consistent ticket/tow enforcement on the nearby residential streets for:
      – permit sticker parking
      – single side of street parking
      – hour of day restrictions
      – fifteen feet of clearance from the sidewalk corner
      – snow emergency rules
      B. Mostly-conscientious voluntary observance of:
      – lots that are posted for specific businesses only
      – lots that are posted for campus parking stickers only, particularly Macalaster and William Mitchell
      C. Endless circling around:
      – both hardware stores
      – Kowalski’s & Whole Foods
      – open lot near Dunn Bros
      – NW corner of Grand & Victoria
      D. A grand total of two public paid parking facilities at:
      – SW corner of Grand & Victoria
      – A mystery ramp behind Oxford Hill (Starbucks/CVS) that no one knows about because there isn’t any signage on Grand Ave.

      • >>- A mystery ramp behind Oxford Hill (Starbucks/CVS) that no one knows about because there isn’t any signage on Grand Ave.<<

        Note to self.

  • Lady612

    I was on Grand Avenue on Thursday, during my lunch break. I rode a Nice Ride to Dale & Grand, and then walked around a bit. I was struck by the businesses with the “we care about our customers and oppose metered parking” posters in the windows of so many businesses. Here’s what I think those posters say, “We care about our car-driving customers who want to drive around and around the block until they get lucky enough to get free parking in front of our shop”. Which excludes me, and anyone else who chooses public transit, bikes, walking, and parking in a ramp & walking.

    I’m also pretty sure that more than a few commuters to downtown St. Paul might park for free on Grand and then bus on into downtown. Why would the Grand Ave businesses want to perpetuate that?! *That’s* costing them money – more so than the turnover that metered parking creates.

  • Jeff C.

    I’ll be less opposed to paying for parking if they install meters that I can put quarters in as well as credit cards as opposed to those horrible pay stations in Minneapolis. I have never had one work on the first try. Admittedly, I don’t use them often. But I’m also a college graduate (therefore not a total idiot) and find them frustrating to use – the design is horrible and they are completely non-intuitive to me.

    • Kassie

      The pay stations in both Minneapolis and St. Paul accept quarters and aren’t hard to use at all. You type in your spot number, put in your quarters, then press print. That’s it.

      • Jeff C.

        Except when that’s not it. The other week I tried that with a credit card at one machine. After 5 tries I moved to another machine. After two tries I went back to my car, got some quarters, when to the 2nd machine and it worked the first time. Both machines were showing that they could read my credit card because I got to the step of choosing how much time I wanted to pay for, so the problem wasn’t my card. I tried a second one, just in case it was. The paystations don’t make parking better or easier for the customer – they are installed for the benefit of the city and their design shows it. /rant

  • Paul

    I’m torn. I don’t like how the city is going about it, but I also don’t like having to pay for someone else to park on business district streets for free.

    For Grand Ave especially; residents and commercial patrons fighting for the same curb space, I wonder what their solution is for the former?