Notable Quotes #4: Donald Shoup describes Grand Avenue's Parking Meter Debate

[Mayor Coleman describing Shoup's work to an angry crowd.]
[From Chuck Marohn's latest Strong Towns Podcast, legendary parking guru and retired planning prof, Donald Shoup, talks quite a lot about Saint Paul's recent thwarted attempt to put parking meters on Grand Avenue.]

Saint Paul only got half of the message. Every city should charge the right price for curbed parking. Every city should charge the right price for curbed pricing, and by “right price”, I mean the lowest cost a city can charge and still leave one or two open spaces on every block, on both sides of the block, so wherever you go, you can see just what you want: an open space waiting for you. So nobody can say there’s a shortage of parking.

And the cities that have done this, like LA and San Francisco in their downtowns, more prices went down than up. Because we have to charge a different price at different times of the day. If you have the same price all day long, it’s often too high in the morning and too low in the afternoon.

Saint Paul wanted to put in parking meters partly because there’s a parking shortage. Is it Grand Avenue? I think they made a big mistake by saying ‘we’re doing it because the city needs the money.’ They actually counted the money in the next year’s budget!

Clearly they were taking money out of the neighborhood and spending it every place else. I don’t think that’s fair. What has been politically successful is that, if you went to Grand Avenue and said, “we’ll offer you these parking meters”, but all of the meter revenue will go to repair your sidewalks or plow snow or plant street trees or put in historic street lights, and street furniture or have added police protection or whatever is your #1 priority something you’d like to see done on Grand Avenue, but don’t have a way to pay for it, here’s a way to do it.

If you’d like to have the meters you’ll get all the money for it. If you don’t want the meters, you won’t get the improvements. And we’ll run the meters just as long as it’s necessary to manage parking. If the demand falls at 7PM, then the prices go down or it becomes free at 7PM. If the demand doesn’t increase until 10AM, then the price remains free until 10AM. So I think it’s, combined as a package of prices and public services, the merchants and the property owners would begin to see it in a different way. It’s totally different from saying, “we’re going to give you parking meters but we’re going to take all the money.”

It’s pretty elementary that the city made a mistake saying that “we want the money” and therefore we’re going to put in parking meters. Of course that’s going to be unpopular. But in cities that do offer meters and public services as a package, they’re very welcomed.


Every city thinks it’s unique. I’m sure Saint Paul thinks its unique, different from Minneapolis, or Osceola or any other little town nearby. But I think most cities are very much alike when it comes to parking. If you have a parking problem, and there’s a shortage of parking on Main Street in a small city, that’s the same as the parking shortage on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul.

And you can do the same solution. It just means there won’t be nearly so many parking meters in the small city. And they won’t charge as high a price, but you have to manage parking.

Parking is kind of like successful socialism. There’s an enormous amount of very valuable land that the city owns, and it’s squandering the results. It’s really mismanaging, and I think the example you showed in Saint Paul is an example of this mismanagement. The transportation experts say that parking meters would prevent employees from parking all day long in front of their restaurants, and prevent complaining about that there’s no parking for customers. And it would provide a lot of revenue for things that the neighborhood wants, even to build an off-street parking structure, if that’s their first priority. But it rarely is, because parking is so expensive. They’d probably rather have clean sidewalks, than a parking structure. I think when we get parking right, cities will right themselves.

[Check out the whole conversation.]


Please Stop For Me, a Children's Book Mash-up

I'm a driver.

I’m on foot.
I'm on-foot-man.

That on-foot-man.
That on-foot-man!
I do not like
that on-foot-man.

Do you like
to stop your car?

I do not like to,
I do not like
to stop for you.

Would you stop for me 
Here or there?

I won’t stop for you
here or there.
I won’t stop driving
I will not brake 
and pause my plan.
I do not like to

Would you stop
outside my house?
Would you stop driving
for a mouse?

I will not stop
outside your house.
I won’t stop driving
for a mouse.
I won’t stop driving
here or there.
I don’t like stopping
I don’t like slowing my car’s plan.
I don’t like stopping, on-foot-man.

Would you stop for me
in a crosswalk?
Would you stop for me
at mid-block?

Not in crosswalk
Not at mid-block.
Not by your house.
Not for a mouse.
I won’t stop driving
here or there.
I don’t like stopping
I don’t like slowing my car’s plan.
I don’t like stopping, on-foot-man.

Would you? Could you?
in a car?
Please wait for me!
It's not that far.

I would not,
could not,
in a car.

You might like stopping.
You will see.
You might like stopping
by this tree.

I would not, could not by a tree.
Not in a car! You let me be.
I don’t like stopping at crosswalk
I don’t like stopping at mid-block
I don’t like stopping by your house
I don’t like stopping for a mouse
I don’t like stopping here or there.
I don’t like stopping anywhere.
I don’t like slowing my car’s plan.
I don’t like stopping, on-foot-man.

A train! A train!
A train! A train!
Could you, would you
for a train?

Not for a train! Not by a tree!
Not in a car! Man! Let me be!
I would not, could not, at crosswalk.
I could not, would not, at mid-block.
I won’t stop driving for a mouse
I won’t stop driving by your house.
I don’t like stopping here or there.
I don’t like stopping anywhere.
I don’t like slowing my car’s plan.
I don’t like stopping, on-foot-man.

In the dark?
Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?

I would not, could not,
in the dark.

Would you, could you,
in the rain?

I would not, could not, in the rain.
Not in the dark. Not for a train,
Not in a car, Not by a tree.
I don’t like stopping, Man, you see.
Not by a house. Not at crosswalk.
Not with a mouse. Not at mid-block.
I won’t stop for you here or there.
I won’t stop for you anywhere!

You do not like
to stop your car?

I do not
like to,
it's too far.

Could you for a
parade float?

I would not for a
parade float!

Would you, could you,
for a boat?

I could not, would not, for a boat.
I will not for a parade float.
I won’t stop for you in the rain.
I won’t stop for you on a train.
Not in the dark! Not by a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I don’t like stopping at crosswalk.
I don’t like stopping at mid-block.
I won’t stop for you by your house.
I don’t like stopping for a mouse.
I don’t like stopping here or there.
I won’t stop for you ANYWHERE!

I do not like
to pause my plan!

I won’t stop for you,

You don’t like stopping.
SO you say.
But try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may I say.

If you will let me be,
I will try it.
You will see.

I don’t mind to pause my plan!
I don’t mind stopping on-foot-man!
I will stop for you in a boat!
And I will stop for a parade float....
And I’ll stop for you in the rain.
And in the dark. And for a train.
And in a car. And by a tree.
It feels so good, so good you see!

So I’ll stop for you at crosswalk.
And I’ll stop for you at mid-block.
And I will stop before a house.
I’ll even stop for a tiny mouse.
I stop for you here and there.
Say! I’ll stop for you ANYWHERE!

I do so like
to wait for you!
Thank you!
Thank you,

Twin Cities Neon #13

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Location forgotten.]

[Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul.]


Fascinating Political Moment in Minneapolis Might Actually Change Things

There’s a lot happening in North Minneapolis right now, and it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Decades of work fighting the lethal brutality of the Minneapolis Police Department have come to a head with the killing of Jamar Clark five days ago. The moment reveals a coalescence of different narratives around race, state power, and geographic segregation that have emerged over the last few years, and also points to the contrast between urban and regional narratives that continue to trouble the Twin Cities.

[Jon Stewart flipping off Twin Cities' news station, KTSP, on The Daily Show.]

Mayor Hodges and #pointergate

2014’s oddest moment, the great “pointergate” scandal, forms an odd reversal to the present impasse on Plymouth Avenue. After her 2013 election in Minneapolis to an open seat, it became abundantly clear that Betsy Hodges, who ran on a platform of tackling racial inequality, was no friend to the Minneapolis Police Department. One of the mayor’s few clear powers in Minneapolis’ “weak mayor” system is the appointment of department heads, and Betsy’s choice was a reform candidate who would, it was thought, attempt to tackle the long-standing community frustrations around police brutality and unaccountability.

(For some context on this, see this nice bio-piece on septgenarian Minneapolis anti-brutality activist, Spike Moss, in Minnpost.)

[The Facebook pic that started it all.]
The Minneapolis Police Federation, who recently ousted their right-wing demagogic union head for an even more right-wing demagogic union head, fought back. When Hodges was seen campaigning with the group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the heart of the then-fledgling Minneapolis #blacklivesmatter movement, the police union took a Facebook picture to their friends at the right-wing local TV station and planted a story about the mayor “flashing gang signs” with a young organizer named Navell Gordon.

It was ridiculous, and went viral.

That was the moment when two important things emerged about today’s local media and how they handle urban issues. First, the internet and social media can effectively undermine traditional power structures by creating generational gaps. As any cursory glance at TV news’ pharmacological advertising will tell you, there’s still a huge difference between how older and younger Minnesotans receive and share news. Young people simply bypass traditional media, especially television, in favor of a completely different kind of information network that is lightning fast, nimble, and has the potential to create politically potent echo chambers. As they were nationally mocked by the Daily Show, #pointergate revealed how out of touch KTSP, and their race-baiting reporter Jay Kollis, had become.

(One schadenfreude-laden side-note to the current protests has been the whining by KSTP TV news about not being allowed access to the #JamarClark protestors. Play a tiny violin for station owner and right-wing financier Stanley Hubbard.)

The second related consequence is that, because local news can’t do much of anything about their internet problem, they hardly care about how young diverse urban audiences perceive them. The demographic sights of local media are firmly fixed on white suburbia. That’s where the wealth remains, and as sports sections gradually take over newspapers and newscasts, particularly in the class-segregated Twin Cities, a huge racial fissure emerges over how “urban issues” are perceived. Despite the #pointergate ridicule, KSTP has carried on, even hiring a well-known investigative reporter from the Star Tribune this month. With each new ham-handed report on urban crime or a bike accident, and each new story on Lakeville hockey moms, the Twin Cities’ geographic racial divide widens. 

[The Mall of America #blacklivesmatter protest in December, 2014.]

The politics of malls and freeways 

The pernicious racial segregation of opportunity explains the cognitive dissonance of Twin Cities narratives where, even in the same year, stories radically contract each other. One one hand, you have "the miracle of Minneapolis," the nation's top city for affordable opportunity; on the other, you have Minneapolis boasting the highest employment disparity between whites and blacks. These contrasts stem from a confusion of scale between a wealthy white region and a more-diverse Minneapolis. The city itself, a bastion of both liberalism and racially concentrated poverty, is stuck in the middle trying to negotiate with a state and region that have no great patience for social justice politics. As a relatively small city dominated by suburban wealth, the power structure seems precarious. 

[Eric Dayton's "north" hats.]
(For example, see the recent failed attempts to raise the minimum wage and provide reasonable scheduling conditions for service workers, both of which hinged on narratives formed by high-end restaurateurs. Governor Mark Dayton’s sons’ exclusive locally-focused downtown restaurant and retail store, which has pioneered Minnesotan exceptionalist branding, is the perfect encapsulation of this geographic class tension. Dayton himself is, of course, the liberal heir a famously suburbanizing retail dynasty. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

That’s why, until this week, the most interesting thing #blacklivesmatter movement had done was to confront the infrastructure of Twin Cities suburbia by demonstrating at the Mall of America (MOA) and along Minneapolis’ two largest freeways.

As I wrote at the time, freeways are public spaces too:
A road like Interstate 35W might seem "natural," but history has shown that they are not, that freeway construction was a massively destructive force aimed at a particular way of urban life that many people of color relied on. Today and every day, freeways remain barriers dividing our cities poorest neighborhoods, and making streets unsafe by privileging the inherently violent technology of the automobile.

The Mall of America protest, in particular, held right before Christmas, became an ongoing media narrative struggle between the prosecutor from the retail-laden ring-road suburb of Bloomington and the Minneapolis NAACP President and #blacklivesmatter figurehead Nekima Levy-Pounds. (Charges were just dropped this month, almost a year later.)

To many people, especially internet commenters, the MOA, state fair, and freeway demonstrations were impossible to understand. “Why can’t they protest in their own neighborhood,” was the refrain. “Blocking the freeway just pisses people off,” said the suburban drivers. “Or, “I agree with you but I have to get to work. And what about the children?”

But in another sense, these demonstrations were the only way to connect the geographic dots between the problems facing Minneapolis’ segregated communities and the Twin Cities’ suburban infrastructure, a landscape that makes it effortlessly easy to ignore racial inequality. When #blacklivesmatter shuts down the freeway to Maple Grove, not only do they perform a tragically ironic bit of political ju-jitsu by occupying the very freeway that helped isolate the neighborhood in the first place, they make a particular statement about urban segregation:

“Black lives matter, even to everyone driving past on their way to the white suburbs.”

At least to me, this expansion of scale is the critical move.

[Two moments for the Minneapolis police.]

Race, place, police, and the Hodges reversal

[Click to expand.]
Because the Minneapolis police force embodies the racial and geographic inequalities of the region, they have now become the terrain of contest. With last week’s killing of Jamar Clark, lurking racial inequalities and systemic violence focused to a tragic point. It’s difficult to see how the standoff on Plymouth Avenue will play out without upsetting the city’s liberal applecart.

That incomprehensible sound you hear over Minneapolis City Hall is Mayor Hodges’ self-image exploding. Since her awkward embrace of #blacklivesmatter last year, she has transformed from a #pointergate-savvy poster child of Minneapolis reform to an effigy for decades of systemic frustration with racist structural violence. (Interestingly, she's been a pariah both times, which might have something to do with her gender.)

For Hodges, who is the literal embodiment of a marriage  between the city’s wealthy liberal Southwest and its diverse Northside poverty, it must be quite a shock. (I wonder if she wishes she still had her old Council seat in the tony enclave of the 13th Ward, far from the madding crowd.) You must assume that Hodges’ unwelcoming reception by the demonstrators at the 4th Precinct station, and Police Chief Harteau’s tone-deaf toeing of police party lines, destroy any dreams of top-down behind-the-scenes reform.

But it’s easy to get caught in the Twitter tornado and spin so fast that one is unable to see its limits. Like the #occupy encampment before it, or any number of previous North Minneapolis demonstrations led by people of color, achieving meaningful structural change is extremely difficult. As a few people have pointed out, the Near North neighborhood where the 4th precinct MPD HQ is located is the site of the 1967 race riots that shook North Minneapolis and left lasting scars on Plymouth and Penn Avenues. By key measures, particularly education, the Twin Cities are more segregated than ever, and last year’s statistics show the city’s racial opportunity gap widening.

[Unbelievable poll.]
Check out the recent poll about white Americans' sense of victimization, where "half of white Americans told researchers that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem today as discrimination against blacks and other minorities." There is the rub that explains today's toxic political landscape. Just because everyone on your phone agrees with you, it doesn’t mean a revolution is happening.

That's why, Levy-Pounds' recent statement to the press, spoken in a soft voice while the first winter snow fell, had reasonable demands for the city: support a Federal investigation of Jamar Clark's death, release video tapes to resolve confusion about "inconsistent narratives" of the killing, provide grief counselors for witnesses, restrain the police reactions to non-violent demonstrations, and, the most difficult, reform the police department with a new Federal program.

I continue to think about the question of scale: Can Minneapolis spark the kinds of changes that our region needs to make, or will focusing on the core let the socially and racially distant suburbs off the hook? But because the Minneapolis Police Department so closely embodies the region’s white exurban divide, it’s a great place to start. With a larger movement, resolving the disconnect that exists on either side of the police fence will create dangerous sparks, but it’s the future. And it’s long overdue.

[Conversations amidst the standoff at the 4th Precinct.]


Check out this KARE 11 video of three Minneapolis #blacklivesmatter leaders describing their approach and tactics. I'm struck by their comments about the freeways and the car drivers, and their smart approach to handling the media.


I mis-ID's the previous image of the mall protest, which is actually from a #blacklivesmatter protest at a mall in Tennessee, not Minnesota.


Tales from the Bus #5: The Man and the Mousetrap

[This post originally appeared on the now-defunct site Bustales back in 2007.]

He sat down on the bus seat right in front of me, while I was trying to read about how each of us individually creates meaning from the complex tapestry of the American city. I was sitting there with my nose in the book when all of a sudden this young kid (there was a whole, loud group of them in the back of the bus, where the cool kids sit) … this kid plunks down next to me on the seat.
The bus was not even close to full, so that was kind of weird. But, being a non-confrontational Minnesotan, I ignored my new neighbor.

Soon he left, but not long after that another, different kid sat down next to me. Was this some sort of practical joke, I asked myself, and I wondered ignoringly until the kid turned back to her friends and shouted, “It’s Real!” A sea of giggles bubbled up from the audience.

That got me thinking, and noticing. What’s real? What’s so funny?

Then I noticed the guy in front of me. He had a mousetrap on his ear.

Now, granted, this was no punk making a point. This was a typical working-class, mesh-hat octogenerian, sitting and riding the bus because he was too old or too poor to drive. He was your everyday bus companion — except that he had a mousetrap on his ear.

I took some invasive pictures, and the kids kept giggling, but either the old man didn’t notice, or he was too proud to acknowledge us. And, as I sat there in wonder, I just had to start laughing. I busted a gut — it was so utterly foreign, so abnormal, so crazy.

A while later a lady who apparently was acquainted with the guy boarded the bus, saw him, and sat down next to him. “Art. How’ve you been?”

Art mumbled something.

“Say, Art. You’ve got a mousetrap on your ear,” the lady stated, her jaw hitting the dirty bus floor. “You know you’ve got a mousetrap on your ear?”

Again, Art mumbled… something about the mousetrap. I couldn’t make it out. The only thing I heard was the word “yesterday.”

“You’re crazy,” the lady said, and she quickly moved to another seat.

Maybe he was crazy. Though, apart from the mousetrap, he didn’t seem particularly loony to me. But this guy has been making me laugh for going on eight hours years now. It’s made me think about all the ways in which the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum.

[It's a true story. In the comments on the original now-gone post, there were a few stories from people who knew this guy, including a story about how a co-worker once saw him jump onto a machine at work and "piss on it" after another co-worker had jokingly said to do so, and how in the kitchen in his house there were forks hanging from the ceiling, tied with fishing line for some reason.]