St. Paul to better communicate parking bans

Parking bans for non-snow emergency routes would be easier to restrict.

by John Thomas

St. Paul residents should expect clearer communication about winter parking restrictions this season.

The St. Paul City Council is slated to adopt two ordinances next week that would cut down on the bureaucracy required to restrict parking on non-snow emergency streets. Officials say the change is a response to problems during last year’s harsh winter.

The city imposed one-side parking bans across various streets last year for the first time in recent memory, said Kathy Lantry, St. Paul City Council president and sponsor of both ordinances.

“It sort of highlighted that we didn’t have a good process in place,” Lantry said.

Currently, any parking restrictions require a mayoral declaration and City Council approval, said John Maczko, city engineer with St. Paul’s public works department.

That system often moved slowly, leaving cars on the street when fire trucks and other emergency vehicles needed to pass through.

“We’re trying to prevent those consequences,” Lantry said.

The new system under the proposed ordinances would allow the incoming public works director to declare continuous winter parking restrictions on non-snow emergency routes and give the director the power to impound vehicles that violated his or her edicts.

Some University of Minnesota students who park on St. Paul streets raised concerns with the city’s parking policies.

“I think that [city leaders] need to be careful about areas where parking is already tight, especially areas in low-income areas, where people don’t necessarily have off-street parking that they can go to,” said Josh Gamble, a graduate student studying natural resource sciences.

Applied economics graduate student David Smith said he thinks a one-sided parking ban would be reasonable, but banning parking on both sides of a street would be excessive.

Smith said officials should factor in the population density of any area that would be affected by closures and restrictions.

“… I can see a lot of ticketing, towing, a lot of hardship for people,” Gamble said.

Lantry said any parking restrictions wouldn’t surprise residents.

“We would start talking about this, and start talking about the possibility of this happening, beforehand,” she said, noting that the city will use a variety of paths, including the Internet, to get the word out.

Maczko said the change under the new ordinances would be minor. He noted that officials in Minneapolis already have similar power.

Last year’s extremely cold winter kept snow from melting and required the city to enact more bans on more streets than usual, Maczko said.

“Hopefully, we’ll never have to do it again,” he said.

Lantry said she’s certain the public works director will consult with the mayor and City Council before exercising the new power.

The council president said she’s confident the new ordinances will succeed. The change would take effect 30 days after it’s passed at the Dec. 3 council meeting.