New parking ban creates contention

by Jake Kapsner

New traffic signs greeted commuters returning to a residential area north of Dinkytown this week in search of first-come, first-park privileges.
A one-side-only parking ban began Monday on 15 city blocks in the east Marcy-Holmes neighborhood on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The ban is a test set to run until next summer, but already the reduced parking space has generated reams of response.
“We didn’t feel the issue was fully examined,” said Gary Ellis of the Dinkytown Business Association. “There’s definitely a parking problem that needs to be examined.”
Aimed to improve street safety and decrease traffic flow, the test ban arrived after three years of grass-roots research and petitioning by Marcy-Holmes residents.
Resident Dennis Kamrath approached renters and homeowners last spring, knocking door-to-door to gather petition signatures from people on the affected blocks.
Needing 51 percent approval on each block, Kamrath gathered enough support to enact the ban on 15 of the 18 petitioned streets.
“Because the first thing people see is parking restrictions, they don’t think about the issue further,” Kamrath said. He stressed that lightening the traffic burden on crowded streets opens sight lines for all transportation — notably bicycle travel.
That’s by far the preference of the people in the 100 petitioned properties, where 75 percent are students, and only 10 people said no, Kamrath said.
Signs went up after Minneapolis city officials verified the process and the signatures, yet cars continued to park on the streets Thursday as warning leaflets spilled onto windshields.
Wary of a decreased customer flow, Dinkytown merchants aren’t the only ones concerned, said Jim Daire, a Minneapolis Transportation Systems planner.
Marcy-Holmes residents living west of I-35 worry that the flux of University commuters who formerly parked near Dinkytown will flood into their streets next, said Daire, who has worked with Marcy-Holmes residents throughout the petition process.
But residents in the affected area have mixed feelings as well.
“It’s pretty stupid. There’s plenty of room,” said University student Mark Lee, who moved to the neighborhood in September.
“What we’re looking at is how this will affect property owners,” Daire said, which was reflected in the petition-gathering process.
A team from Marcy-Holmes, Dinkytown and the city traffic department will begin monitoring the test in the next couple of weeks.
Students interested in joining the committee can call Joe Fusco, head of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Revitalization Program.
“It’s a test in the truest sense,” Fusco said. “You have to do it to see what the response is.”
Joan Campbell, the neighborhood’s city council member, said the ban can also aid snow removal.
Residents on the affected streets received an inflammatory flyer this week from an alleged student. The full page message decries the parking ban and beckons people to respond.
“Sometimes you have to go through a test process and know that people are going to be angry with you,” Campbell said.
The flyer’s anonymity further enflamed the issue, some residents said. They declined to comment, saying they feared students would retaliate.
“If you have an issue with it, you have to be willing to go through the process,” Fusco said. “Which is: Come to a forum, write your council person, or both.”