Spring cleanup means towing

Last year, 2,502 cars were towed during the roughly 30 days of street sweeping.

When he saw street cleaning signs late Sunday night, economics first-year Martin Rugeroni moved his car to another street where he thought it would be safe to park.

But Rugeroni returned from class Monday evening unable to find his car where he had left it. He found out it had been moved – to the Minneapolis impound lot.

“At first I thought it was stolen,” he said. “Then, I just found out it was actually towed after calling like 500 times.”

Until May 9, students like Rugeroni and city residents will experience the effects of the citywide street sweep, put on by the city’s streets and sidewalks department.

All streets will be swept from curb to curb, which will require many car owners to move their cars, or risk being towed. A tow costs $138 and there is an $18 fee for each day in the lot.

Last year, 2,502 cars were towed during the roughly 30 days of street sweeping, Minneapolis spokesman Matt Laible said.

Accompanying the towing fee is a parking ticket from Hennepin County, which signifies that the car can be towed, Mike Kennedy, director of transportation maintenance and repair for the city of Minneapolis, said.

Kennedy said under a federal permit, the city is required to sweep twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring.

While the city would rather not tow any cars in the process, he said it’s necessary to get the job done.

“If we thought there was a better, more effective system, we’d be doing it,” he said.

Kennedy said street signs are posted 24 hours in advance and more than 35,000 phone calls are made to landlines to notify residents about the street sweeping, but sometimes people aren’t aware.

“Quite frankly, it is a privilege to park on the streets,” he said. “If people want to park their cars on the streets, either a student or a long-term resident, they have to make the effort to be aware of what’s going on and pay attention.”

But in areas where students don’t have land lines and instead use cell phones, those calls could be ineffective.

Once a car is towed, it’s difficult to locate it, said Ron Smith, vice president of marketing for Compiled Logic.

Compiled Logic allows Houston-area residents to enter their car’s vehicle identification number to a public Web site to find where their car has been towed.

The company has spoken with Minneapolis officials about implementing the system, but Smith said it isn’t something the city is investing in yet.

The process of retrieving a car from one of the city’s lots can be a hassle, Smith said. That time spent could be much less with a database for Minneapolis.

“To find your car in minutes as opposed to spending a day or a day and a half trying to locate it,” he said, “people are willing to pay a few dollars to have the ability to do that.”

Rugeroni spent nearly three hours locating and retrieving his car, time he said he could have spent doing something more worthwhile.