On the commuting beat: Towed parkers really ticked in Minneapolis

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 6, 2012 - 5:45 PM

When the city of Minneapolis conducts fall street sweeping, how much warning do residents need to get their cars off the street?

Is 24 hours enough when the temporary "No Parking'' signs go up?

Several Minneapolis residents say no.

Mike Kennedy, street maintenance superintendent for the Minneapolis Department of Public Works, said state law requires cities to give a 24-hour notice for parking bans, and that Minneapolis complies. He says putting up the signs more than a day in advance would be impractical.

"We hear people say 'I want four days' [of notice]," Kennedy said. "That sounds reasonable. But if we did that, we'd have to go back every day to check that they are still there. We don't have the resources to do that."

Signs could be stolen, knocked down or blown away, and they'd have to be replaced, Kennedy said.

The city certainly understands the potential confusion for residents. It tries to put up four signs on short blocks and up to six on long blocks. No tickets or tows are allowed until a sign has been up at least 24 hours, meaning if a sign is posted at 11 a.m. one day, no tickets or tows would be initiated until 11 a.m. the next.

Maintenance workers who post the signs record the time signs are installed; those who tag cars are told, too.

"They have to defend their tickets," Kennedy said. If signs are not up 24 hours, or there are not enough of them, they can't ticket.

"We are very careful,'' Kennedy added. "We follow statute and make sure this is all legal."

When this fall's sweeping season rolled around, the city called residents to warn them and posted a street sweeping schedule on its website.

But many people say they rely on the signs and want more warning.

"Many city residents don't use their car every day, and those who arrive home from work or school after dark don't see the signs," said one Minneapolis resident.

Another suggested a one-week notice.

Becky Groseth of Columbia Heights insists that the 2400 block of Clinton Avenue S. had no "No Parking'' signs posted on a late October morning when she parked there for a funeral. When she came back, she said, the signs were posted. The leaves on the street were gone. So was her car.

"I was aware of the street sweeping, so I drove around until I found a street without the temporary signs," said Groseth. "I was not skirting the law."

She contested her ticket and got the $42 fine dismissed. She's still trying to recoup the $138 towing cost.

"Irritating," she said.

During this year's four-week street sweeping session, the city towed 2,751 vehicles and ticketed a total of 4,119.

But catching violators is not his department's goal, Kennedy said.

"We are in the plowing, sweeping and fixing business, not the towing business,'' he said.

"We wish everybody would comply,'' he added, "and that we'd not have to tow a single car."

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768 Twitter: @timstrib

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