Odur Onyongo hustled toward the car parked in front of her family’s house Friday as a St. Paul police officer cruised up in an unmarked vehicle.
She drove off before the officer could cite her for parking on the even-numbered side of Winnipeg Avenue in the North End. Her brother wasn’t so lucky; the officer left the ticket on his windshield.
“Horrible. First of all, there’s no signs,” Onyongo said of the winter parking restrictions, declared in St. Paul earlier this week. “We didn’t know.”
Thousands of vehicle owners have found out the hard way about the first winter parking ban in St. Paul and Minneapolis since 2014. Nearly 3,700 tickets were written and more than 450 cars were towed in Minneapolis as of Friday afternoon, according to the city. In St. Paul, 1,458 tickets were written as of Thursday morning. Towing numbers weren’t available Friday.
Imposed after record snowfall in recent weeks, the restrictions are expected to last until April 1. They would be superseded by snow emergency rules if the cities declare one over the weekend, when up to 10 inches of snow is expected starting Saturday.
Many in the cities have welcomed the parking limits. The growing ridges of snow would otherwise make it impossible for emergency vehicles or plow trucks to squeeze through some streets.
“The one-sided parking does make it better,” Minneapolis Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said. “The real improvement would be when we can finally melt some of this snow.”
In the Powderhorn neighborhood Wednesday, city employee Michael Barth and his partner were scooping heaps of snow off curb ramps.
“As time progresses, more and more people are getting a feel of [the restrictions],” Barth said from inside a Bobcat loader. “At this point, you’re probably gonna get a ticket if you’re on the wrong side of the street or you’re going to be harassed by somebody trying to make it through.”
A few blocks away, Evan Reich stood outside his apartment building finishing a cigarette and looking out at the cars neatly parked on one side of S. 15th Avenue. For him, it is easy to find a spot on the street, as there are several lots and alleys where people leave their cars.
“The street conditions have definitely improved a lot,” he said.
That’s not the case around Uptown, where there is a greater demand for on-street parking. Some streets, such as S. Aldrich Avenue, are so narrow that oncoming cars come within inches of one another.
Channing Scott, who owns a small apartment building on S. Girard Avenue, said the reduced parking is toughest on seniors.
“There are a lot of people ... who were adults when I was growing up who still live in the neighborhood, and they’re finding all these parking restrictions incredibly difficult,” he said as he took a break from clearing snow off the building’s roof.
As a reminder, businesses around the city have put up fliers and sandwich boards telling customers where they can or can’t park.
One of those signs is on the front counter of the Seward Community Co-Op. Misra Abudaker, the manager on duty, said the grocery store put it up after neighbors complained people were violating the rules. .
The streets around the co-op have been clearer ever since the restrictions were enacted, Abudaker said. “Be mindful of the instructions and just follow the rules,” she said.
Ready to kick winter to the curb
The St. Paul restrictions were put into place Monday, five days after Minneapolis did so. Although St. Paul officers are ticketing cars, Onyongo doesn’t think conditions are getting better in her neighborhood.
“It doesn’t get plowed,” she said, pointing to the tire indentations around the hardened snow. “It’s really slippery.”
Other metro streets are in noticeably better shape.
Dan Casebeer, owner of the Grand Performance bike shop near the University of St. Thomas, said he finally felt safe during his two-wheeled commute this week.
“The road felt huge compared to what it did on Monday riding to work,” he said. “Just having that space was amazing.”
Curb space is coveted around his store, mainly because of St. Thomas students looking for a free parking spot. Without the parking restrictions, Casebeer said, it would be difficult for the plows to come in.
“As much as a pain it was, it would be worse if they didn’t do it,” he said. “If they would’ve done it a couple of weeks ago, it would’ve been even better.”