America was founded on parking. In the 1500s, the first white settlers came here from Europe looking for parking. When all the spaces filled up, they moved west in search of more parking. The search for parking is what “Manifest Destiny” and our nation is all about. Fort Snelling started out as a parking lot. Our founding fathers fought and died for parking! So I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let some bicyclists take away parking in downtown Saint Paul.
I’ve looked at Saint Paul Smart Trip’s guide to downtown parking. There’s a mere 26,201 private parking spaces in downtown Saint Paul in 76 surface, raised and subterranean lots. Yes, there’s a few thousand more on-street spaces and the guide misses a couple lots …but this is not even close to enough parking!!! There are over 294,000 people in Saint Paul. If all of them want to come downtown, we have a moral obligation to provide them all with space to drive and park their vehicles.
To begin with, MnDOT, Ramsey County and the Saint Paul Public Works Department aren’t adding enough road capacity for everyone to effortlessly reach our downtown. They added two lanes plus breakdown lanes to the Lafayette Bridge when they really should have added eight lanes. They are proposing to rebuild the Third/Kellogg Bridge with just four lanes when they really should rebuild it with eight. They just widened I-35E by two lanes when they should have added six, and they refuse to widen the I-35/I-94 trench through downtown so people can get to work without having to slow down. Ramsey County is currently proposing to use 8-80 Funds to widen the intersection of Randolph and Lexington so more cars can reach Trader Joe’s …but they’re only willing to demolish four buildings and add one lane, rather than demolishing the necessary eighteen buildings so they can add three lanes!
Then you have the mayor and city council proposing off-street bikeways for downtown that would take away precious on-street parking. It’s outrageous and will destroy our vibrant downtown economy. If they could hear these proposals, I’m sure our nation’s founding fathers would be writhing in their graves.
So I’d like to make a bold proposal of my own. Let’s level all the buildings in downtown Saint Paul and pave over the whole thing! We could make it into one, giant surface parking lot. The benefits are almost too numerous to name but I’ll highlight a few of the major ones.
- It would be a huge boon for the local economy. It would create lots of construction jobs in demolition, hauling and paving. Plus we’d have to build more storm drains to handle the additional water run-off.
- Struggling businesses whose potential clients had nowhere to park will now have ample parking. True, they won’t have any buildings but they can just operate their businesses out of food trucks and other vehicles.
- It will be a huge tourist attraction because what other city in the USA actually has the guts to pave over their entire downtown?!!? We’d be the first. Tourists would flock to Saint Paul to see it… and there’d be ample parking for them when they arrived!
- We’d save hundreds of millions of dollars that we currently spend to maintain public buildings. In this era of smart phones, FaceTime and Skype, there is absolutely no reason why the mayor and city council can’t meet in their cars and conference over their phones. The rest of the city’s employees can also work remotely out of their cars. The city could buy each of them one of those little fold-down laptop computer trays that fit on a steering wheel. It’d be a hell of a lot less expensive than providing each of them with office space, heat and air-conditioning. We’ve got all that stuff in our cars, so let’s use it!
- Concerts and sporting events will be better because there’ll be ample room for tailgate parties. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra could just perform at one edge of the lot and, for theater productions, the whole surface parking lot would be their stage!
- Finally, paving over all of downtown would actually be good for the environment. Cars emit more pollution when they have to slow down, speed up, stop and start. City and MnDOT staff have rightfully pointed this out during environmental impact studies for Ayd Mill Road, Central Corridor LRT and other street projects. If everything was paved, cars would be able to roll around, unimpeded, thus reducing tail-pipe and particulate emissions.
So let’s pave downtown Saint Paul. It’s a win-win for everyone– drivers, businesses, taxpayers and our local economy. To make this happen, I have teamed up with like-minded individuals to form a lobby group– “Citizens for Roads, Asphalt and Parking” or “CRAP”. I urge all of you to join us on Facebook and write to your elected officials. Let them know that you support this bold proposal and that you’re tired of them taking away our parking!