Chart of the Day: Downtown Saint Paul Parking Utilization

Last week I put up a chart from Saint Paul’s ongoing downtown parking study, showing the total number of on- and off-street spaces in downtown Saint Paul (28,700 or thereabouts). One of the other parts of the study was an analysis by staff, where they went around and counted how many of the spaces were used at different points of the day. Here are the results…


There’s also this handy map… this is the map showing the parking utilization at 6pm, after on-street meters “become free” downtown.


One of my burning questions is: how frequently to downtown meters “turn over” after 4pm? Finding data on questions like this is very difficult without smart meter technology.

Stay tuned; more to come!



12 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Downtown Saint Paul Parking Utilization

  1. Matt Brillhart

    Do you think it’s remotely possible that an outcome or after-effect of this study could be that St. Paul will start charging for metered parking after 5pm? Keeping the meters “on” until 7pm seems like something that should be done as soon as possible, both for the revenue it would provide, as well as bringing additional clarity/honesty to the true parking demand/supply picture in Downtown St. Paul. If dinner / happy hour businesses are worried, they could lobby the city to make all meters 2-hour time limit after 5pm or something. Or the businesses themselves could plug the meters if they’re that hard up for customers 😉

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

      very possible; that would be my advice, especially for those that think it’s hard to park on the street downtown in the evenings. basically, the few dollars you pay is the price of convenient parking, not having to drive around the block three times. without paying that cost, it might be difficult to find a spot, especially as downtown grows and becomes more active in the pm hours.

      personally, i’d get rid of time limits. what if there’s a ball game or hockey game or concert that’s 2.5 hours long? i’d like to end the practice of having to go out and ‘plug the meter’, instead making the regular cost high enough to make sure there are open spaces available throughout downtown.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        Feeding the meter is supposed to be not allowed where there’s a time limit. In DC I’ve even seen people get tickets for staying beyond 2 hours, even with a paid-up meter.

      2. Joe D

        As a person who will regularly search for “free” parking, I tend to park at meters after they become free. It is nice to have the convenience to park at a meter for dinner or a hockey game when I do drive to St Paul. As the graphs show, there isn’t a high demand for parking in St Paul after 4/5 PM so continue to not meter evenings.

        Seems like common sense, but I’m sure there will be a rebuttal..

        1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

          This chart shows the ramp utilization I believe. In the report, on street parking becomes incredibly parked up in the evenings. Therefore, no one is using the ample empty ramp space, but is instead cruising for a street space. The point I see here is that you are using this for dinner and a hockey game, but what if I needed to run a few errands? Met up with friends for a drink, had a quick dinner, etc. You’re going to be at the game/play/entertainment for hours, which eats up a space that would turn over to other customers to these businesses. Metering these spaces would make ramps more attractive, and thus, make street parking more available.

          The other solutions are to not worry about the parking lots lost to development, which is okay by me, but if we’re going to be worrying about parking, we should look at the whole of the issue, and not worry only about how many spaces are used, but which and why.

          1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

            Sorry, this is overall, which mirrors ramps much more closely (due to there being many more ramp spots).

            Example: Parking gets to a high amount on the streets with on street parking (by the central library, 91-100% on average weekday nights) vs. ramps (the ramp next to the library ((Science Museum???)) is under 61% parked up).

    2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      While I actually believe you, it’s kind of fascinating that “I’d go downtown but I might have to spend $2 on metered parking” is a thing.

      1. Rosa

        partly it’s just “if the show runs late I don’t have to run out and feed the meter”, more than actual cost.

        Though there’s also that expectation that you shouldn’t have to walk very far, if you drove to something – every time people here talk about making the city bus stops farther apart, because it would be “more efficient” and people can just go ahead and walk an extra block on top of however far they’re already walking to their destination, I think about the howling from business owners that their customers and employees won’t walk 2 blocks from a parking lot.

  2. Jim

    I do worry the message extended meter hours would send. Downtown St. Paul has enough problems. I’m not crazy about giving people another excuse not to go downtown for dinner or an event. If they do extend the hours or cost. I hope it’s done gradually. I don’t think it needs to go from 5pm to 9pm overnight. Likewise if you’re going to increase the cost $2-3 an hour. Just take it slow. 50 cent increases spaced out over time. That may lessen the blowback.

    1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

      Heck, 25 Cents per hour, start with a token fee like that and slowly raise it until we see event times having similar street and ramp utilization rates.

    2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

      Taking it slow is OK with me! I’d like to see some flexibility about how we do this… we identify the problem, and then explore solutions without kneejerk rejections of ideas.

      What it we enforce meters until 10 but make it quite cheap and have no time restrictions…? I’m up for anything that works to maintain some turnover and keep parking relatively easy.

      What i hate to see is a really wasteful situation like the status quo, where we have thousands and thousands of empty, expensive-to-build, and space-consuming downtown parking ramps, and everyone fighting over a few dozen on-street spaces.

  3. Eric SaathoffEric S

    Sorry I’m late to this conversation.

    I really don’t think it’s worthwhile discussing a raising of street parking meter rates unless it is tied with making the ramps more affordable or at least more transparent with their costs.

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