St. Paul leaders are exploring potentially big changes to the city's snow operations, including alternating one-sided parking rules for the winter months.

Citing Duluth as an example, St. Paul officials on Wednesday described a system that would limit on-street parking to a single side that alternates on a weekly basis. That would leave one side of the street open for plows at all times.

Officials emphasized that no details have been finalized. They're looking to engage community members and convene an advisory group in the coming weeks, with the hope of launching a pilot in a few neighborhoods next winter.

Conversations among city leaders started after last year's near-record snowfall, which led to messy roads and thousands of complaints. By early March 2023, St. Paul and Minneapolis restricted parking to one side of residential streets to ensure that emergency vehicles could move through corridors narrowed by massive piles of snow.

During that time, St. Paul Public Works Director Sean Kershaw said his department learned that "in the vast majority of the city, there was room for people to have their cars all on one side of the street."

Kershaw said plow drivers noticed some parts of the city particularly struggled with parking during the one-side restrictions. The city would not impose the alternate parking rules in those locations, he said.

"The number of those situations, though, I think is really exaggerated," he said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter described St. Paul's current snow emergency system as "outdated," noting that officials would still have the ability to call one as needed.

"As far back as I can remember, we've only had one way to clear the city when we have a major snow event," he said. "That in and of itself might be the challenge."

Officials suggested the parking rules could be imposed from November to March, with a window of time each Sunday for residents to move their cars to the opposite side of the street.

Kershaw said plows would still prioritize arterial and collector streets, but the new rules could allow St. Paul to plow residential streets in a quicker and more effective manner. The change could also save the city money on overtime staff and road salt, and it could lead to less ticketing and towing.

Officials said the city would need to determine how to handle parking on arterial and collector roads, as well as on streets that don't allow parking on both sides.

"Snow is something we do with the public, not to the public," Kershaw said. "We think another one of the benefits of this model is it will be easier to communicate to the public."