U has too little off-street parking

Seasonal forces are exacerbating the area’s parking issues.

Connor Nikolic

A few friends and I had to drive through Dinkytown last weekend to meet with another friend at his apartment. If I learned one lesson from this trip, it was to avoid driving around the University of Minnesota until the weather gets better. On many roads on and around campus, two cars could barely fit without exchanging paint. The situation led to me to think that the area could use more parking to alleviate strain on already full roads.

Unsurprisingly, the streets were completely full Friday night, and that will likely be the case for some time, based on early March weather forecasts. My friend parked his car on Seventh Street in Dinkytown, and another driver scraped it. With snow all over the road, the passing car did not have room. The road had turned from two lanes and a parking lane to a door-to-door dance.

Luckily, the car wasn’t damaged, and none of us saw a scratch on either vehicle. The other driver offered to exchange insurance information, but it didn’t seem necessary.

This scenario is a growing concern on and around campus, where cars have little to no room to maneuver and may scratch, or even collide with, other vehicles. With serious winter challenges like hard-to-plow streets and ice and snow buildup, this winter has exacerbated the University’s parking problem. It’s dangerous and unnecessary. With a series of improvements for additional off-road parking alternatives, the area could widen roads and lessen the dangers of driving on layers of ice and snow by lessening the strain of on-street
parking.

Build additional parking

The city of Minneapolis does not want to spend millions of taxpayer dollars unless absolutely necessary, which is the most logical reason the neighborhood has not already built a large parking garage.

The cost of such a project could be in the ballpark of $10 million after a plot of land is purchased. Unless the topic is student housing or a new hotel, developers have shown little interest in building substantial, publicly available parking in the area. The big money is being invested in new apartments, not funding parking facilities.

The financial hurdle of a new parking facility is small in comparison to what it could provide residents. A new facility would keep drivers safer by decreasing the need for on-street parking. A potential parking project would allow more vehicles to flow into the area by freeing up roads, which would also help businesses in the area.

Meanwhile, the University district is considering lowering parking minimums, and city leadership has pledged against building more parking. If the area sees more growth, then poor parking access could get even worse.

Street strain also affects other transit options, such as buses, in the University transit corridor. As more and more cars park on the street, there is less room for large buses or even emergency vehicles. With limited space on the street, buses may stop to let cars go by just to avoid scraping a passing vehicle. The issue steamrolls when buses fall behind schedule, emergency vehicles take longer to reach callers and cars damage other vehicles. In this way, a simple problem like too few off-street parking spots can spill over into other transit options and even affect non-motorists.

Alternatively, additional public parking spots across campus could help at a fraction of the cost.

Hopefully, concerned public officials and city planners will work to increase off-street parking, increase street space on area roads and lessen the chance of future accidents.