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Do Single-Side All-Winter Parking Restrictions Work Anywhere?

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After a record setting February 2019 the plowed snow has narrowed my neighborhood streets

It wasn’t always like this. This changed roughly five years ago.

I’m talking about the parking restrictions, that is. See that sign?

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No Parking for five months, November 15th to April 15th.

As I said, roughly five years ago my neighborhood’s sixty-year-old streets reached their functional end. When we moved in about 11 years back the streets were horrendous. Every Spring potholes were patched. The year before reconstruction started about a full third of the street was patched up potholes.

Sidenote: when you get assessed for the cost of street, curb, sanitary and stormwater sewer reconstruction you will realize just how expensive the infrastructure in our residential streets really is. And the gas tax pays for exactly zero percent.

We’re a small pocket of Hopkins isolated from other Hopkins residential neighborhoods as you can see from the following map. That’s Edina to the south. We also see the Blake Middle School campus to the right, the Excelsior Crossings office park in the upper left, and a few of the SuperValu warehouses in the lower left. For some more context, the Blake Road SWLRT station will be built in the upper right corner.

Map of the wider Hopkins neighborhood around South Presidents

Below is our residential pocket of South Presidents that had streets completely reconstructed.

Factoid: It’s named South Presidents because the streets are all named after US Presidents, and it’s south of Excelsior Blvd.

The South Presidents neighborhood in Hopkins

The reconstruction of our neighborhood streets took out over 80 boulevard trees. I counted them all. It was unavoidable because the boulevard trees were so mature that too many of their root systems were massively damaged from the street modernization. Because our neighborhood’s streets were regularly subjected to localized flooding from heavy rains the streets were regraded, in some parts it meant dropping the streets a full 12 inches lower to create drainage and those roots were just destroyed.

More trees would have been lost had Hopkins kept the street at the original width. Hopkins narrowed these streets by two feet and widened the boulevards. Even with street narrowing, the streets are wide enough to park on both sides and a lot of room for one vehicle to get through between two parked cars.

Except in a deep winter with heavy snow.

Plows can only move snow so much. After enough snow those curbs are lost far beneath the snowbanks and combined with the narrowing, well, the plow drivers had a challenge.

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The street’s curbs are lost far beneath the snow.

To ensure plows can get through without smashing cars on either side the city instituted a parking ban from November 15th to April 15th. For five months of the year, half of the on-street parking in the South Presidents neighborhood of Hopkins disappears. A parking apocalypse.

But it never happens.

Look at that map of the residential blocks above. Everyone has a garage. Every garage has a driveway. They aren’t even big driveways because 9 of the 11 blocks have garages on alleys. There is still no shortage of parking.

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A garage and driveway off the alley

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Where the driveway snow goes

A five month long, November 15th to April 15th, single-side parking restriction works here. I was skeptical it was going to be fine. But it’s fine. During snow emergencies when everyone has to get off the streets I’ve seen some homes fit three cars in their alley-side driveway side by side.

A little blizzard on April 15th last year didn’t even make us flinch.

14 inches of snow on April 15th 2018

7 days later we were out biking in t-shirts.

7 days after the April 2018 blizzard

And we were parking on BOTH sides again!

Eric Anondson

About Eric Anondson

Born in St. Louis Park and lived there nearly 28 years but has been living in Hopkins since 2008. Eric's hopped around two years or so at a time in Loring Park, Laurel Village, Snellby, Whittier, and Golden Valley. He works in downtown Minneapolis. On Twitter as @xeoth.

13 thoughts on “Do Single-Side All-Winter Parking Restrictions Work Anywhere?

  1. Andrew Evans

    The roads around Stevens Square get almost impassable with parking on both sides of the street after winters with either lots of snow, or lost of sleet and rain and then lots of snow. So calling winter parking restrictions sometimes is needed, and although a pain to residents, makes it possible for emergency vehicles to get around.

    Should it be mandatory like the sings you’ve posted, I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about plowing to know if it’s cheaper or more efficient to plow over to one side than run one down the middle. I would think it’s better for parking since snow could be plowed away from the one side.

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      I previously, long ago, lived in Loring Park in an apartment on the edge of 94. We were able to pay to park vehicles in the lot of the nearby liquor store. It saved my butt come snow emergencies.
      I can believe there will be certain neighborhoods where this change will be harder to implement or will have greater pushback.
      I bet people will be surprised how resilient neighborhoods are.

      1. Andrew Evans

        Well your apartment building is still there but if it’s the store I’m thinking about then that whole block from 15th to the freeway is under construction for new affordable apartments. Then the block north, other than the little diner and coffee shop at the end is going to be condos.

        I think posting signs is a lazy way of doing it, unless maybe, thinking out loud, there isn’t much parking going on anyway. If there are only a few cars, and everyone uses the driveway, then the lazy way may be best.

        I think the Minneapolis way, as long as winter parking restrictions are communicated well, are the best way of doing it. That way residents can enjoy parking as they wish, and restrictions are only put in place when it becomes a safety issue.

        But again, I don’t know if there is any plowing reason that would make it easier to limit parking completely on one side. It may make sense.

  2. Mike

    During these restrictions the difference between how many cars you can park on a block with alleys vs a block with driveways becomes very apparent. When you have a 10’ wide driveway every 40 feet you might get two cars between ignoring the amount of space you are supposed to leave by the apron.

  3. Frank Phelan

    With the current even side parking ban in Saint Paul, Public Works was able to plow the center and even side lanes of some (most?) east – west Day Plow streets on Sunday, before the Snow Emergency kicked in at 9 pm Sunday and the start of Day Plow routes on Monday at 8 am.

    I liked that, and I wouldn’t mind the even side parking all winter if it meant an early crack at the east – west routes. It may result in fewer school snow days, as sometimes the issue is concern about buses getting stuck on the as yet unplowed east – west streets, even as the Night Plow routes were done over night.

  4. Frank Phelan

    For neighborhoods like the author’s, where off street parking is abundant, why couldn’t the one side parking ban be year around? And if that’s the case, could the streets be narrowed, with a savings in construction and maintenance costs?

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      That really is a very difficult change to get a neighborhood to buy in to. Saving trees by narrowing the new street a bit will get buy in from the residents. Narrowing it even more just to remove half of on-street parking better have significant cost savings. But even then I believe the vast majority of residents would take the more expensive street design if it means they get “their spot”.
      But I believe the cost of a narrower street is sometimes over sold. It is true there will be less pavement material, but that is about all that is reduced. The full cost we paid included new sanitary sewer, new storm water sewer, new gas, excavation and removal of the old street materials and old sewers. None the cost of that gets reduced with narrower pavement.
      Plus, there has been some positive value from having on street parking on both sides. It causes drivers to slow down and negotiate between two cars that nearly function as chicanes.
      If you see that map, drivers coming down from Excelsior often speed down these streets at speeds barely slower than they were just going along Excelsior. Many of these drivers do not live in the neighborhood. The family center employees and parents dropping off their kids take the streets at high speeds in a rush. The residents of Edina to the south fly through to get to Excelsior and highways, I don’t know why but I guess they resent choosing to live a few blocks further away from everything and need to make up drive time by speeding down residential streets.
      If anyone wants to capture footage of drivers rolling through stop signs faster than high speed cyclists come and sit by the stop signs in South Presidents.
      Without parking on one side of the streets we have witnessed higher speed driving on our streets. If the houses were closer to the sidewalks I bet it would help influence drivers to slow down, but they are quite a bit set back.
      Regardless, a further narrowing will probably need to wait another 55 years for the next reconstruction. 😉

      1. Lou Miranda

        Would there be value in picking one “main” north/south street, taking off one side of parking permanently, and putting a separated bike lane there?

        Every suburban street may not need a bike lane, but picking a prominent (through) street in each neighborhood (one in each direction) might make sense.

        1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

          I actually had a fantasy wish that a bike route run from Interlachen Blvd through the Van Valkenburg Park, Grandview Cemetery, a side down one residential street in Edina, through the back-to-back Alden Park and Harley Hopkins Park, and a down one side of one residential block in my neighborhood. Now there’s a link connecting far Northwest Edina to the regional Cedar Lake trails that isn’t a wish space on busy deadly roads.
          Edina already bans overnight on-street parking. Hopkins gets by with the five month single side ban.
          But I’ve learned painted bike lanes just have little effect on driver behavior and getting them to slow and be safe. Two opposite side parked cars do.

          1. Joseph

            Edina only bans overnight parking through the winter, but as Edina rebuilds streets they are reducing widths towards 24-27 feet and installing single sided parking wherever feasible.

            If we just ban on street parking on one side it reduces traffic calming capabilities, but if we build less roadway overall it still functions as a yield street.

  5. Rosa

    This is great to hear. I definitely think a permanent schedule (whether it’s a one side ban or alternate side days) is easier than emergencies and a suddenly-declared ban – when something is routine, people get good at it.

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      Another positive of a fixed schedule is the predictability. Sudden declared snow emergencies mean towings. Paying to get your vehicle out is difficult for many. We know towing happens more in neighborhoods with less privileged lower status residents. We can weigh the burden of finding a place to store a vehicle against the economic burden of all the fines and fees that more greatly hit the less well off.

    2. Andrew

      I used to live in a city that had single side parking all winter. It alternated every day… if the date was even you could park on the even side, if the date was odd you could park on the odd side. Basically a permanent snow emergency. It worked great, because everyone was used to doing it all winter.

      This was in a different state with way more snowfall though.

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