Motorists using the Government Center Ramp for hourly parking are experiencing sticker shock now that the ramp is no longer run by the city of Minneapolis.

Though small signs with the rate schedule are posted at the entrances and on machines that dispense tickets, many motorists apparently are not seeing them or were not expecting prices to have changed. Beware, they have, and they are up significantly.

The ramp at 5th Street and 5th Avenue S. is a convenient place to park for anybody who has a court hearing or works nearby. And now it’s quite pricey.

The city charged $3 for the first half-hour and $1.50 for each additional 30 minutes. For 12 hours, drivers paid $12.50 and $14 for a full 24 hours.

Sometime this fall, rates jumped. Park in the ramp for 20 minutes or fewer during the day and it’s $5. Stay from 21 to 40 minutes and the rate jumps to $21. After more than 2½ hours the rate is $32. That’s quite a steep hike from the rates before Lanier Parking assumed control of the ramp in September. (Early bird rates are $11 but drivers must leave after noon to get it.)

“$32 for 2 hours of parking … pure extortion,” wrote one customer on the ramp’s website.

Last year, the city sold the ramp as part of a deal to acquire the ramp at 501 4th Av. That ramp will be torn down and replaced with a building to house all city offices. After the sale, there were concerns that prices might go up, a city spokesman told the Drive.

“More than once people have entered that ramp and got stuck [with a hefty bill],” he said.

A Lanier spokeswoman said the moral of the story is to be sure to read the signs advertising parking rates before driving in. “Check out what you are really getting into.”

Wash me

We all could use a bit of comic relief while driving, and the Drive got some in the form of a message scrawled on the back of a boxy van with salt-speckled windowless doors. It read: “Also Comes in White.” I guess that was a tactful way of letting the driver know the van needed a scrub.

Thousands of motorists took advantage of last week’s above-freezing temperatures to remove winter’s filth from their vehicles by visiting a car wash, spending a few hard-earned bucks and 30 minutes waiting in line, all to get a pristine look that lasted for maybe a block.

It may seem futile, battling Minnesota’s harsh climate, but washing your car in the winter is not about keeping a shine, says Eric Wulf of the International Car Wash Association. It’s all about getting the salt and brine off a vehicle and protecting your investment. It’s not enough just to rinse the vehicle off, he said. Pick a package that includes a wax or other sealant that will put a layer of protection between your paint and the corrosive salt. And get the underside of your vehicle washed, too, to prevent rust from forming and avoid brake-line failures, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.

With another Arctic blast gripping the region, a few Drive readers have asked if it is too cold to get their rides cleaned up. Generally it’s safe when temperatures are above 20 degrees, Wulf said. If the car wash can keep cloths from freezing and workers can give a vehicle a good wipe down, you can go even if it’s colder, he said.

The most important time to get a car wash is when roads become sloppy. “It sprays up and sticks to the car,” Wulf said. “And that’s when it reacts with the metal.”

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.