The city of Minneapolis has temporarily banned parking on one side of residential streets, an emergency measure to clear roadways buried by the snowiest February in city history.
Last imposed in 2014, the winter parking restrictions will go into effect Wednesday at 8 a.m., guaranteeing that plowing and towing will continue through the end of the season. From now until April 1, cars parked on the even-numbered side of residential streets are at risk of being ticketed and towed.
With the parking restrictions, city officials said they hope to clear residential streets that had become nearly impassable for fire trucks, buses and other large vehicles.
“Snow that has been plowed along the curbs has reached a point where our streets have become too narrow for a number of large vehicles,” Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson said at a news conference Tuesday. “We need to ensure that these vehicles are not slowed or prevented from getting to people who need help and who need services.”
Drivers in search of their vehicles flocked to the city impound lot this week, reluctantly paying the $138-plus towing fee or making the decision to abandon their cars entirely. Towing from consecutive snow emergencies has kept the impound lot west of downtown nearly full, with about 85 percent of the 2,200 spaces filled, according to the city.
“We’re pretty stretched, but we have capacity,” said Mike Kennedy, the city’s transportation maintenance director.
St. Paul also has set parking restrictions this winter, but they have been temporary and limited to specific streets or sections where first responders have difficulty navigating, Assistant Fire Chief Matt Simpson said.
“I think this is a fair approach, and right now it seems to be effective,” he said, adding that officials are ready to enact citywide restrictions if necessary.
Under the restrictions in Minneapolis, cars can be parked on both sides of snow emergency routes and on the odd-numbered side of streets. If there are other snow emergencies throughout the month, the city will switch to snow emergency parking rules. Once lifted, it will return to the winter parking restrictions.
The restrictions could end earlier than April 1 depending on whether emergency services and buses are better able to move through the streets, Kennedy said. Fire trucks need at least 11½ feet of road width, but some streets are down to 8 feet between parked cars.
The most pressing needs are in Stevens Square, Dinkytown, Uptown, the Wedge and other densely populated neighborhoods where many vehicle owners park on the street, he said. With the snow emergency over on Wednesday, the city will try to send tow trucks to areas with a proportionately low number of tows, Kennedy said.
Robert Smitsky would welcome the sight of more tow trucks in his Phillips neighborhood. It consistently has one of the lowest towing rates during snow emergencies, according to public data, and Smitsky said some streets have become “totally impassable.”
“No cars get towed, no cars get ticketed,” he said. “There’s cars in this neighborhood that have piles of snow on top of them because the plows were going around them all year.”
He’s not sure many are aware of the new parking restrictions or whether it will make things better near his home. “The city hasn’t done a very good job of telling people,” he said.
Motorists trickled in and out of the impound lot to pick up their vehicles as snow continued to fall Tuesday afternoon.
Luann Winans had driven to north Minneapolis that morning to pick up her grandchildren from their mother, Candice Westbrook. When she walked back from Westbrook’s house about 15 minutes later, her car had already been towed, she said.
She immediately went to the impound lot with Westbrook, who paid the $138 towing fee.
“A lot of people can’t afford that,” Westbrook said. “It’s hard for a lot of us.”
A shuttle driver took Winans past the main lot and a secondary lot, both of which were full. Her car was in a third lot that was already starting to fill up.
“City’s making money today, boys,” she said.
Ariana Fragoso, who also lives on the North Side, came down to the lot to learn about her car, which had been towed the day before. It’s her first year driving, she said, and she wasn’t familiar with the parking rules during snow emergencies.
Her 2001 Ford Focus needs repairs and insurance, she said, so she decided to leave it there.
“It was just not worth it at this point,” she said.