Fines pile up with snow

Students need to be aware of snowstorm parking emergencies to avoid tickets.

by Charley Bruce

Snow has begun to fall on the University, but students should know a flurry of fines could follow.

The University area, with its dense population of on-street parking, is a hot spot for snow emergency ticketing and towing. Students should know the rules so they don’t have to pay the price.

Snow emergency parking regulations allow for the orderly movement of cars so the city can plow parking lanes. Plowing snow with cars on the street can create a snow ridge around cars that can trap some parked cars.

The Minneapolis director of public works and the police chief call a snow emergency when snow accumulation is enough to necessitate that sweep.

“Typically that’s around about a four-inch snowstorm, four inches or more,” said Public Works Director of Winter Operations Mike Kennedy.

Future weather factors contribute to the decision, Kennedy said. The city won’t initiate an emergency

for a six-inch snowstorm in March with 45-degree days forecasted, but might for multiple small storms in a row in January.

The city tries to make the decision before 5 p.m., in time for television newscasts, e-mail alerts and phone systems to get the word out, he said.

“These days there isn’t much excuse not to know (about a snow emergency),” Kennedy said.

Problems around the University

Kennedy said the University’s transient student population, high density and demand for on-street parking makes it a problem area in Minneapolis.

Kennedy said he has seen a car pull into a spot where another vehicle was just towed from in Dinkytown while the ticket-writing officer was still present.

“Those areas with a huge demand for on-street parking Ö need to pay attention to the rules and need the plowing the most,” he said.

The city tags and tows based on the demand for on-street parking, he said, leading to high levels of enforcement around the University.

“It’s all about cooperation,” he said.

A snow emergency parking violation earns a $34 ticket, but towing is $138, plus an $18 daily storage fee at the city impound lot.

There were three snow emergencies from December 2005 to March 2006, with 19,889 tickets issued and 4,716 vehicles towed, according to the city. Kennedy said a snow emergency can cost about $400,000 to orchestrate.

The city snow and ice control budget is about $7 million annually, which is used to clear the city’s 1,040 miles of streets.

The ticket money goes to Hennepin County, but the towing charges go to the contracted towing companies and to maintaining the impound lot, Kennedy said.

At the impound lot, students might need more than cash. If the car isn’t registered to them (to

their parents instead, for example), they’ll need a notarized statement from the registered owner, a photocopy of the registered owner’s ID or driver’s license, the license plate number or vehicle identification number, and the make and year of the vehicle.

A University solution

To avoid getting towed, students can use a University service, SnOasis, that was founded by the city three years ago.

Jacqueline Brudlos, with University parking and transportation, said the University offers free parking from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. on the first day of a snow emergency at four ramps: 4th Street Ramp, 21st Avenue Ramp, Gortner Avenue Ramp and the Oak Street Ramp.

Despite the offering, not many people take advantage of the free parking during snow emergencies.

“I wouldn’t say we get a lot of people using the ramps at that time,” Brudlos said.