Even on a good day, finding on-street parking in the urban core can be a challenge. Throw in a snow emergency and the task only gets more confusing and agonizing. And that’s just with one car to move to a safe and legal spot. How about having to move more than 500?
Last week’s snowstorm triggered the second snow emergencies of the season in Minneapolis and St. Paul and brought questions from readers who wondered who moves the tiny light-blue-and-white cars that belong to the car-sharing company Car2Go — and what happens to those left in plow’s way.
The company with 350 of the petite, GPS-equipped Smart Fortwo Passion cars in Minneapolis and 150 in St. Paul takes a two-pronged approach. Car2Go has a fleet team that cleans, refuels and maintains the cars daily. When there is a possibility of a snow emergency, the team shifts into high gear and begins moving the cars to comply with the rules, said Josh Johnson, general manager of Car2Go Twin Cities.
In Minneapolis that means positioning cars on the “day 3” routes, while in St. Paul it means moving them to “day plow routes,” the last streets in each city to be plowed.
Car2Go also relies heavily on its 25,000 members across the two cities to lend a helping hand. When a snow emergency is declared, the company sends out an e-mail asking for help. Members who answer the call and move a car to the proper side of the street are credited with 20 free minutes on a future trip. “It’s an extra benefit for those who want to help us out,” Johnson said.
The company has learned a lot since the winter of 2013-14, its first year in the market. That winter produced seven snow emergencies. Its plan works fairly well, but it’s not an exact science, Johnson said.
“Unfortunately it is a fact of life that a few get towed,” he said. “Either the fleet team didn’t get to the car in time or a member wasn’t sure where to park or didn’t see the declaration in time.”
This year, 30 Car2Go vehicles were towed in Minneapolis during the first snow emergency, Dec. 29 to 31. Last week, seven Car2Go cars had been towed to the impound lot at 51 Colfax Av. N., city officials said.
So who pays the ticket and towing charges? It depends when the car was last parked, Johnson said.
If a member parked before a snow emergency was declared, then Car2Go picks up the tab. Members pay if a car is parked after a snow emergency is issued. Car2Go sends e-mails, uses social media and puts notices on its app to warn members, “so you cannot not know,” Johnson said.
About those seals
Last week’s Metro section story about credit card skimmers found at a Robbinsdale gas station sparked a volley of e-mails from readers asking about the reference to broken seal pumps.
Seals are colored stickers placed over the opening between the pump cabinet and panel door. If the door has been opened, such as when employees install new rolls of paper, the seal breaks. A broken seal could indicate that tampering might have occurred, said Ross Corson of the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Many stations use them to deter and detect pump tampering, but they are not required by law, Corson said.