Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What happens when you halve parking?

Not when you have it. When you cut it in half. Minneapolis is not a city where finding a place to park is really a big deal. There are a few residential neighborhoods where you might not get a spot in front of your house—Uptown, Wedge, Whittier, and over by the University of Minnesota—but usually, even there, it's not a huge deal to find a spot. In winter, there are snow emergencies, and everyone does a little dosey-do moving cars from one side of the street to another; then it's back to normal.

Except, well, every once in a while. Starting on Thursday, there will be no more parking on the even side of the street. Until April, or whenever the snow melts. Apparently, Minneapolis has the authority to ban parking on one side of the street. Once fire trucks can't get down the street because it's too narrow (and they claim if they plowed all the way to the curb the sidewalks would be impassible), the regulations go up. The last time this happened was in 2001—nine years ago—and, well, it's about to happen again.

So, what happens now? In much of Minneapolis, parking will go on as normal, just on one side of the street. But in the aforementioned perpetually parked-up neighborhoods, parking is going to be drastically decreased. It won't be halved, exactly—snow emergency routes are exempt, so it's only residential streets which are affected, and it doesn't take in to account off-street parking—but in many areas there is going to be a significant decline in the availability of parking.

So, basically, Minneapolis is going to turn in to the parking equivalent of Boston, San Francisco or Chicago, pretty much overnight. It will be interesting to note several things. Will transit ridership go up—will it be worth a trip by bus if you don't know if you'll get a parking space when you get back? Will people start posting spaces on Craigslist for rent? Will some folks ditch their cars and make do with car sharing services? You better believe we'll be watching.

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