Reading the Highland Villager Op-Ed Extra #9

[Not photo of actual Highland Villager.]
A not so Grand idea deserves the dustbin
By Michael Mischke

How shortsighted, counterproductive and just plain stupid is the city of St. Paul's plan to install parking meters on the 10 blocks of Grand Avenue between Dale Street and Ayd Mill Road? Let me count the ways.

1. The additional revenue from parking meters on Grand would ostensibly fill a hole in Mayor Chris Coleman's proposed 2016 city budget. The Public Works Department estimates that in eight months from May through December 2016, revenue from the parking meters would be $634,500, and thereafter $672,500 a year. Public works also estimates the total initial cost of installation at $590,000. The eight-month estimated costs for maintenance, service charges and credit card processing fees total another $130,125. That translates to a $85,625 loss in 2016, not a profit. However, the city has supplied no information about you have to believe would be additional costs for parking meter enforcement as well.

[This is pretty basic stuff, with initial capital costs and annual revenues, like with anything involving money. Re: enforcement, see below.] 

2. City officials insist that parking meters would actually be a boon for businesses on grand because meters would promote parking turnover for the street. However, of the 10 blocks being proposed for meter,s eight are already posted for parking time limits of anywhere from 1 minutes to two hours. If parking turnover were an issue, the obvious solution would be better enforcement of the existing time limits. And anyone who lives or works on Grand can tell you that St. Paul's ticket-happy parking enforcement officers are nothing if not ubiquitous on that stretch of the street. Parking turnover is not the issue it's being made out to be.

[So, is parking a pain in the ass now, with ever-changing time limits and "ticket happy officers" getting paid lots of money to chalk tires or whatever they do? It seems like it is! It would certainly be a lot easier to enforce parking rules if you could just glance at a meter. Enforcement costs would likely go down quite a bit.]

3. There are currently 26-28 parking spots per block face on Grand between Dale Street and Ayd Mill Road. The longer 22-foot standard parking spots proposed by the city would actually reduce on-street parking spaces by as much as 16 percent on those blocks.

[Fair point.]

4. Parking meters would motivate customers to spend less time on Grand or prompt them to spend more money where parking is free and abundant.

[Would it? Only if those customers are extremely petty. Also how many people avoid Grand Avenue because of the aforementioned chaos of the existing situation?]

5. Reduced sales would result in reduced sales tax revenue for the city.

[If sales would be going down, which they likely would not. See also: any thriving street with parking meters.]

6. Reduced sales would also ultimately result in reduced commercial lease rates, which would reduce commercial property values and property tax revenue for the city.


7. The cost for parking on the street would be $1 an hour from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and $2 an hour from 6-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and motorists would have to pay for a full hour even if they planned to park for only a few minutes. [This last statement is factually incorrect.] The residents of the 700-plus single-family homes, apartments and condominiums on that length of Grand, many of which had insufficient or no off-street parking, would be forced to park elsewhere or pay six days a week to park near their homes when they get home in the evening.

[So is parking a problem right now or isn't it?]

8. Grand Avenue residents and customers who choose to avoid paying for parking -- and many will -- would look for free places to park on nearby residential streets, increasing traffic and parking congestion on those streets.

[Isn't this already happening?]

[Some existing residential parking areas around Grand.]
9. The additional pressure on those other streets would inevitably result in the expansion of the resident-only parking districts that already exist both north and south of Grand.

[People at the city have some interesting ideas about how to change resident parking districts, as is mentioned in regular Villager article.]

10. In an ideal world, all commercial off-street parking would be shared by businesses for the convenience of all customers. Parking meters would prompt private lot owners to more closely monitor their suddenly more precious free parking and take measures to ensure their lots are used only by their own customers.

[So parking sucks right now and there are no realistic solutions and nobody gets along? That's what I'm reading here.]

When what he referred to as a "pilot project" was first announced in his budget address, Mayor Coleman assured us that affected neighbors and businesses would be "engaged through pop-up meetings, surveys along commercial streets, and meetings with district councils, business associations and advocacy groups." That never happened and city officials responsible for this impending calamity deserve all the scorn that is not almost universally being heaped upon them.

[Fair enough. It's not that this is wrong, it's just that I don't share at all the notion that nobody will go there any more, because it'll be too crowded. That seems like a bleak view of Saint Paul.] 

Michael Mischke is the publisher of the Villager.

[I come for your soul!... Or you know, fifty cents for storing your car.]

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