Meter hikes hurt Dinkytown businesses

Dinkytown businesses are in peril; Borealis Caffe recently closed its doors for good, and other businesses on campus and throughout the city are searching for innovative ways to attract customers. But a recent move by the city of Minneapolis is destined to thwart these efforts: starting today, the already stringent parking rules will worsen with rate and hour increases for Dinkytown, Stadium Village and Seven Corners, in addition to other city areas.

The change, recommended by Minneapolis Parking and Transportation Services director Greg Finstad, aims to increase turnover, manage the on-street parking supply and keep cars from parking in nearby residential areas. The 25-cent-per-hour increase in Dinkytown and Stadium Village, and extended hours until 10 p.m. may hope to boost customer circulation, but in reality they will make people reluctant to patronize the areas because of parking difficulties.

If two people spend a night on the town, they will go where they can have an enjoyable and stress-free time. If eating at the Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown means bringing a purse full of quarters and running to feed the meter three times to enjoy a three-hour meal, they will go elsewhere. Or if they still choose Loring, they will not stay for the glass of wine or dessert after dinner if they are concerned with getting towed. Multiply these seemingly trivial expenditures by all the patrons in one evening and there will be
significant losses for restaurants.

Rates have already been increased in the downtown area as well, a commercial area struggling to maintain customer flow. The Twin Cities boasts a plethora of attractions in St. Paul, the Mall of America, Southdale Shopping Center and many others. To compete, Minneapolis needs to do everything in its power to give businesses in the city a competitive edge. Making parking, a key factor in people’s decisions of where to eat and shop, expensive and difficult will be a huge blow to the city’s economy, directing people to more accessible areas.

Finstad’s argument that meter rates are significantly lower than ramps is also ridiculous. When there are overwhelming complaints about parking cost and availability, raising costs and instituting tougher hours aggravates the problem. With meters going until 10 p.m., all night patrons are deterred, unless people decide these activities are enjoyable for less than two hours.

Ward 2 City Council member Paul Zerby said he is willing to work on his constituents’ behalf if city policies are affecting them adversely. Driving away business and making it nearly impossible for students and residents of these areas to find parking would undoubtedly constitute as adverse. Changes that hope to increase customer traffic and parking turnover will be moot points if businesses close because of lost revenue.