Parking is about to get cheaper for downtown Minneapolis workers if they ride with someone and park in the city-run ABC parking ramps near Target Center.
Transportation officials on Tuesday announced they will start offering parking for $20 a month for all carpools that register with the city, not just those that come in from the western suburbs on Interstate 394. Officials also will institute a $5 daily rate for nonregistered carpools that use the ramps.
The moves are part of the first major changes to the carpool parking program since the three ramps opened 30 years ago.
Previously, carpools that did not come from the western suburbs and enter the downtown ramps from I-394 paid $99 a month. The rate change now creates a level playing field, and the hope is the benefit will be enough to entice more commuters to give up their solo drives to work and reverse the slow decline in the number of carpools.
“Any commuter coming into downtown Minneapolis can get the new rate, and that is huge,” said Lisa Austin, the Minnesota Department of Transportation ABC Ramps and Mobility Hubs program manager. “This brings a component of fairness for anybody working downtown.”
In 2017, just 765 registered carpools used the ABC ramps that were built to reduce congestion on the freeways and downtown streets. That’s down from 1,479 in 2003 when carpooling hit its peak. At the same time, the number of parking contracts issued to single-occupant vehicles using the ramps has soared, hitting a high mark of 3,070 in 2016.
Solo drivers pay $145 to $165 a month. A study released last year by the University of Minnesota found that Minneapolis still has relatively cheap parking rates for solo drivers, compared with other major cities. It’s also convenient, and many drivers use parking-subsidy benefits offered by their employers, the study found.
As a result, the ABC ramps at 7th, 5th and 3rd streets have been quite full, said Tim Drew, parking system manager for Minneapolis Public Works. The new daily rate will encourage carpooling, he said.
Carpools with two or more people will pay only $5 per day provided vehicles enter between 6 and 9 a.m. The early-bird rate for solo drivers is $7.25 to $8.50. Attendants at the entry will verify a vehicle has at least two people to qualify for the cheap parking.
“This will help in cutting the number of vehicles entering the city,” something the city hopes to achieve through its 2040 Transportation Plan, Drew said.
The daily plan also will allow for flexibility. “People [can] carpool once or twice a week, once a month, whenever it is convenient,” Austin said.
To qualify for the cheap monthly parking, carpools need to register with Move Minneapolis, the city’s transportation management organization. City officials then verify that the carpool has a legitimate home address outside the downtown core and that carpool users actually work downtown.
Night-shift workers, whether they carpool or drive alone, will get a break, too. Drivers who enter ramps after 2 p.m. can now pay a flat $5 to $6 fee per day on nonevent days. Previously, cheaper parking was not available until 4 p.m., which benefited people going to dinner and plays, while those working downtown were paying higher hourly fees, Austin said.