When controversy happens….when tempers flare….we read the comments, so you don’t have to.
On Sunday, as teased on Twitter by our own @streetsmn account, the Star Tribune posted an article It’s not your imagination — parking is disappearing in Minneapolis. The subhead and picture on the article gave a taste of what was to come, with a picture of a bicyclist, and “As as city reduces spots to encourage biking and transit, the cost is going up.”
Actual caption on the online photo header: “Minneapolis officials have been holding back downtown parking construction for years, instead bicycle lanes, like this one on 3rd Avenue S., to encourage people to find ways besides cars to get around.”
Ai yi yi. And that’s before we criticize the construction of that sentence.
In previous posts I gave comments sections a rating of 1 to 5 stars, where 1 means “reading these made us feel dumber,” and 5 means “we have hope for our civilization and maybe not everyone insists on driving from Stillwater to Eden Prairie every day.” Since this is a single-outlet article, we’ll rate the comments section as a whole, and call out some of the most delightful comments.
Overall Comments Section Rating: 1
While there were some rays of sense in the comments, the predominant voice was “city planners forcing people to live how they think we should,” “spend money outside the city” and “bicyclists suck.”
Key Theme 1: Liberal Plot/City Planning
- twinsfan03 says: “This is a classic example of the government trying to force people to live the way they want you to live… pathetic. I don’t care what the issue is, I do not need to government dictating where I can park my car and how I can get to work.”
- stuart06 says: “The Mpls city council and city planners are attempting to perform social engineering, by making it a missery to drive and try to park downtown. Well, they will kill the downtown.”
- kamura calls Minneapolis “Red Square.”
- imstrong says: “Rich liberals never use public transportation. Not the Obamas, not the Clintons, not rich Hollywood limousine liberals, and certainly not wealthy people in Manhattan. Look at all the taxis in Manhattan sometime. Public transit is foisted upon us little folks by the limousine liberals who intentionally make places car unfriendly.”
Key Theme 2: I’ll Show Them By Not Spending Money There!
- just me says: “Thank you very much, I will continue to shop, dine, recreate, out of Mpls. I can’t tell you the last time I was in Mpls, or even drove thru. I go out of my way to not go thru Mpls, so my dollars, which MPLS loves, are not being spent there.” Liked 17 times by other users!
- emilysfriend says: ” I’ll keep my suburban home, and stay out of Minneapolis – thank you!”
Key Theme 3: Bicyclists Suck
- holdt01 says: “The city council has been hijacked by the bike and transit lobby to the detriment of the majority of city residents that still need to drive to jobs and other activities outside of downtown Minneapolis.”
- jam213 says: “Bike lanes .. waste of money in downtown Minneapolis considering the majority of bicyclists ride their bikes on the sidewalks, down streets without bike lanes, and in the wrong lane going the wrong way.”
- holstj says: “So many better places to go for entertainment and dinning than DT Mpls.” (Personal pet peeve: “dinning.” You spell it that way and don’t mean “making a loud, unpleasant or prolonged noise,” much as these comments are virtually, I roll my eyes.)
Voices of Reason:
- anondson says: “Parking is expensive, and drivers love the social engineering arrangement of not paying the true cost up front. Hiding it in the shared rent means they don’t pay for it right? Hiding it in the purchase prices means it was “free”, right?”
- samiam says: “You don’t own the parking in front of your house. If you need parking invest in a garage or at least a parking spot.” (He would be driven out of town in St. Paul for this view.)
- swmnguy provides a lengthy insight: “As Minneapolis grows and matures, getting people to stop car commuting to downtown jobs is a necessary and inevitable process. Now we need to make it easier, faster, and more convenient for downtown workers to use public transportation.The shortsighted embrace of car culture and sprawl 60 years ago makes it challenging to implement a coherent mass transit system, but not impossible. We need more access to park-and-rides in the suburbs, and more reliable, fast, transit to downtown. Buses are not the answer. Buses are OK for short point-to-point trips, but for large-scale regular commuting, every major metropolitan area uses rail and it works very well.It will take us a while to undo the criminal folly of dismantling our rail system 60 years ago, but eventually we will, and the city and the entire urban area will be the better for it.”
Thanks, Star Tribune, for publishing this on the Sunday of a 3-day weekend. I’m going to power brunch now, where “power” is a synonym for “vodka drinks.” If you, dear reader, read more comments as they come, feel free to add them in the comments. You can also feel free to read one of the more than 100 articles on streets.mn about parking for a little light beach reading.
I was in the comment right after it was posted. I knew it was a losing battle, I couldn’t keep up.
Even in the hours past me reading the first 75, it blew up. And it was a losing battle. I’d rather go take on buckthorn, really.
I limited myself to late-night (okay, Dad late-night) Twitter swearing.
I love when people say up front that they already avoid the city and then rail against the parking situation. Maybe don’t worry about it then?
The city is all crime! And terrible!
Then why do you care if you can park?
Similarly, I think the “I live in apartments where they didn’t build even a full space per unit” gets me. You didn’t know you didn’t get deeded/assigned parking when you moved in? Your bad. I’ve lived in places with and without off-street, and in that off-street, with and without assigned spots. YOU GET THAT SHIT IN THE LEASE.
Given how difficult it is to get in many downtown restaurants, I don’t think they’ll miss the folks from the ‘burbs who refuse to drive in if they can’t park within 20’ of the front door.
But they don’t mind walking a fair distance to go to Mall of America or a typical Target.
Thank you for writing this and the emergency kitten. I started to read the comments and had to stop for the sake of my health and my family. Unfortunately, I made the same mistake a bit later with the “bicyclists, you have to stop for signs/lights” article in the Strib. There were no emergency furry animals to help me with that.
Supply and demand (cost, I guess, being most critical), getting people to a highly dense area means getting people to their destination in a more dense way (from single occupancy vehicle to mass transit, carpool, biking, etc). Why is this not a big issue in downtown Seattle, San Francisco, New York, but it is, somehow, here???
I’m pretty sure the comments section of the Seattle newspaper are just as bad. In San Francisco they complain about BART instead of parking because nobody expects to park.
On the other hand in San Francisco most of the cars stop BEFORE the crosswalk, and I never once had to slap a car hood as they tried to kill me in the whole week I spent there, so clearly there’s less feeling that car drivers are the only real road users in general.
“Why is this not a big issue in downtown Seattle, San Francisco, New York, but it is, somehow, here???”
Because they are different cities with different cultures, sets of expectations, and geographical factors?
I think a lot of the complaining about parking is overwrought, yeah, but OTOH I don’t think these cities are suitable comparisons.
San Franciscans dream of parking downtown for $6/day rather than $6+/hour.
Exactly. I know each city is different; I’ve been to all of these (except New York but I hear 95% of the commuters don’t drive a car solo) and the point is still the same. People still want free/cheap parking, EXCEPT someone ALWAYS pays for it. The user should be mostly on the hook to pay based on demand, not the city (which gets subsidized by taxpayers if the cost is artificially lower than “market value.”
Something I discovered that of course exists in SF, people can reserve a parking space on demand. Just driving up to casually visit can be time consuming trying to park.
My coworker popped up an app and reserved the spot in a lot before driving up to SF from SV.
I haven’t found it, but the Minneapolis parking app should allow reserving spaces in ramps (but not street meters). Before driving downtown, grab a space before you even leave so you know exactly where to go.
Interestingly, I’ve seen a demonstration of bike lockers available to be reserved on demand. Ideally, this technology would be used by state employees, the U, and Metro Transit’s bike locker system (I’m only researching it for state employees). If the technology works well for bicycle lockers, I’m sure it would work for “smart” ramps too. I’d even be willing to consider limited (“outer ring” downtown meters. If you knew you had a dedicated parking space 6 blocks away from your destination, but didn’t know if you could find a parking spot 1-2 blocks away and might have to circle for dozens of minutes to find an elusive spot “out front,” wouldn’t you opt for the farther-away guaranteed spot? Just thinking out loud, virtually speaking.
Right, our issue right now is not that there is a shortage of parking. It’s that people can’t easily guess where to park downtown.
I kind of look at it like movie tickets, buy a ticket and then go scramble for a seat in the dark theater. There is the trend in movie theaters to pick your seat as you buy a ticket. I don’t even need to have a specific spot in a ramp reserved, just guaranteeing a specific ramp has a spot held for me is enough.
Ideally, not just the city ramps and lots, but all of them would be accessible from a single portal. But I know the city has their own app already, IMO I should be able to use the city parking app to reserve a space in a city ramp. Then when complainers go on about how hard it is to find parking, I can just get them to the app.
If it were guaranteed, and cheaper, and they could know it wasn’t in a snow emergency, a LOT of people would use it. So many people will walk a mile or more to avoid paying for parking.
So? Comparing us to San Francisco is apples to oranges. Doesn’t mean I agree with the people complaining about $6/day parking, either; it’s no more than they would pay in other Midwestern cities. But most people here don’t look to places like San Francisco when thinking about what these things should cost.
Whatever the plan may be (if there really is one), the fact remains that we have a transit system that’s inadequate to meet the needs of the metropolitan region, especially if parking gets reduced.
There can still be gradual reduction a great deal more before we have an actual problem. Recent past city plans forced an over-supply of parking everywhere.
The advantage we are always told of busses is they can be changed when conditions change. But the way buses are managed it seems the only conditions that buses noticeably change are lanes.
It seems we can build an LRT line before getting around to changing/adding routes, reduce unnecessary stops, or frequency.
There is also an assumption that all storage for automobiles should be free, like a bunny. The Cottage Grove commuter was angsting about paying roughly $6/day for downtown parking and having to walk a few blocks.
Parking costs, like all vehicle costs, can eat up more cash on lower incomes. The solution to this is not necessarily to make it cheaper/easier to park the SUV coming from Lakeville. Similarly, I see disability access often cited when parking is being restricted, but I have also seen a variety of permitting options that attempts to address those needs.
Point taken that if people refuse to visit the city anyway, why should they care if there’s no parking. On the other hand there’s plenty going the other way. If there’s an article about the suburbs, commentators from the city complain about how un-walkable it is and use the pejorative “sprawl, but then state they’d never actually lower themselves to go there.
Walking across a Target parking lot: Suburbanites are afraid of the crime problem (justified or not) in the cities, and are likely to feel safer walking across a brightly lit Target parking lot with CCTV cameras and lots of employees around as opposed to an equivalent city street. Likewise if you go to Target, you know where to park. If you’re visiting Acme or The Old Spaghetti Factory, is it obvious which ramp you park in?
Crowed restaurants: Maybe Minneapolis restaurants are crowded, but would they still be so if all the suburban residents disappeared? Maybe this depends on the place.
They aren’t going to disappear. People complain about parking, they don’t stop going to appealing stuff because it’s marginally harder.
And yes, in the city, there isn’t a “right” place to park. You park where you can.
Except they do. My sister keeps telling me about all the wonderful places in the city she’s heard about and would love to visit, but won’t visit because of the driving and parking situation there. ( At some point something that’s desirable becomes not worth the drawbacks and work in achieving it compared to an inferior substitute or just not doing it.
There’s no amount of lanes or spots we can build to draw your sister, who already won’t come to a car dominated environment, and there’s no way we should be forcing people out of the city to try.
But do we want to drive away additional people that are currently coming now by making it harder to drive and park?
[shrug] “nobody goes there it’s too crowded”
Going to the city is something that takes some getting used to. People encounter these different spaces in different ways. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly for a lot of people! I think we should have walkable dense environments as an option in the US, and shouldn’t try to change these spaces to make them “feel” more suburban.
Point is that downtown restaurants are not so attractive to suburban residents that they’d continue to come no matter what. It’s already hard enough that most people I know that do it at all only do it for special occasions (but part of this is the physical distance too, not just the parking situation). We’ve already talked about the Acme comedy club owner, who presumably knows where his customers are from and their level on wherewithal better than us. I know the irony of wide, efficient streets and lots of parking making the area a copy of the suburbs rather than an alternative, and maybe losing them is acceptable to the city in exchange for more density and more walk-ability, but lets not pretend the willingness of suburbanites to come in is unlimited.
Yes, and my point is your second sentence. Downtown should not be designed for people who only use it as a special occasion. It can’t survive that way, much less thrive.
The parking lot Acme was concerned about is gone (has been for months). I haven’t heard that Mr. Lee is looking for new digs.
As it turns out, business owners are often wrong about how important parking is to their business. In the article we’re not reading the comments to, one of them actually laments that too many people are now living near her restaurant. That’s pretty crazy.
The willingness of suburbanites to come downtown is definitely not unlimited. But as we make the city denser, it needs to depend on them less.
With the significant increase in good restaurants in the suburbs in the last 15 years or so, I don’t think going downtown to go a restaurant is as much of a thing as it used to be anyway. I think most people from the suburbs do that in combination with a sporting event, show, etc. for which they’d already have to go downtown to attend.
Have to continually remind myself that the typical Strib comment section person is not typical of MSP residents. (That goes both ways, this forum is atypical as well)
Sometimes it’s hard though!
I am pleased to see this. I’m hoping smart systems (dockless bike sharing, reserving a bike locker, reserving a parking spot) will be more commonplace.
As transit goes away from cars and truly becomes a system, I am optimistic about this development. Only partly because people, car drivers, will demand it.
What I will never understand is why so many Minnesotans are so adamantly against walking. So you have to park a few blocks away and walk a bit. I’ve done that forever, and when I go Downtown, I typically take the bus or the train. It’s not a big deal. Most people can manage this. I think the problem is that most of them don’t want to be bothered. If you’re accustomed to driving everywhere and having extremely abundant and convenient parking, then the alternative is inconceivable. I still get people looking at me like I’m crazy for thinking walking is an option in town.
“No shit. It’s Minnesota, and it’s January. Were you expecting gentle tropical breezes wafting through coconut trees with hula music in the background?”
“You have to walk three blocks!”
“Yeah, so? God gave you legs, and last I checked, most people’s were healthy enough to make the walk. Leave the convenient parking to the disabled. That’s why those parking spots exist, don’t you know?”
“I shouldn’t have to pay for parking!”
“I shouldn’t have to pay for food and water as they are absolutely necessary for me to live, but I’m getting used to doing it all the same (even though less than 3% of our population is needed to farm for over 320 million, and around 40% of what’s produced is waste). Technically speaking, obtaining the minimum for life could be free, but then we can’t always have things as we’d like ’em.”
If people want to enjoy the city, they need to understand that it isn’t the suburbs and can’t be treated the same way. No one gives a damn that carless city people (or suburbanites) can’t safely or easily navigate the suburbs on foot or bus in most cases, yet we’re supposed to kiss suburbanites’ butts because there isn’t free on-street parking near to where they want to be in every case. Let’s face it, when people complain about it being hard to park, that’s usually what they’re actually bellyaching about.
Mind you, the Star Trib isn’t the world’s best newspaper, and Internet comments are more often than not from the trollish, brainless troglodytes of the world, so it’s best not to take their words or numbers very seriously. Thoughtful people, I find, more often than not tend to avoid getting into a circle-flame on news sites. It accomplishes nothing. On a place like this, it’s okay. 🙂