Thursday, January 3, 2008

emergency parking

I moved to Minneapolis over 20 years ago after growing up in a couple small Montana cities. When I first came here I was somewhat amazed and confused by the very aggressive snow-plowing routine here. The towns in Montana I came from got as much or more snow than Minneapolis, and often it lingered thru the winter, but the plowing routine was pretty lackadaisical in comparison. They would plow the middle of streets to make sure they were safe for cars, but the edges of the streets often kept their drifts.

So it took me a while to figure out that the aggressive snowplowing here, the snow emergencies, had less to do with safety and almost everything to do with parking. Minneapolis plows from curve to curve to ensure that there will always be plenty of curbside parking.

A few years ago some friends of mine from Madison, Wisconsin drove up for a long weekend. Their comment when they left was how easy it always was to find parking here. And that was in comparison to tiny Madison. They didn't necessarily think that ease of parking was a good thing. It made it too easy to drive.

In Minneapolis, if you start a trip in a car you pretty much always know that you will find parking at your destination, and it will probably be easy to find parking at your destination. If you always know that you will be able to park at your destination, and you have a car, you will pretty much always take a car for that trip.

If you want to take a trip but don't know if you'll find parking at your destination, or if you think that finding parking will be a pain, you might decide to take transit or bike or walk for that trip. If you do decide to walk, you help make your city more pedestrian friendly for everybody else. If you decide to take transit, you help create demand to grow your transit system. Or you might decide to do something closer to home, and help make your own neighborhood a more vibrant place.

But if you know it will always be easy to drive because you know there will always be easy parking at your destination, you will drive, and you will then make sure that your city is less pedestrian friendly, and maintains its mediocre transit system, and you will leave your neighborhood, and that makes sure that there is less to do close to your home.

So I say that we should just save all those hundreds and thousands of dollars and just get rid of the snow emergencies. We should let the snow pile up on the edges of streets to make it harder for people to find a place to park. Everything we do that makes it a little less easy to drive makes it easier to walk, and makes our city a better place for people.


mnultraguy said...

I agree, this is why if I have to go down to the airport or god forbid MOA, as I did this year for relative, I take the LRT! No parking headaches and front door drop off.

Anonymous said...

I have read a lot of blogs and yours is one of the few that actually made me chuckle with your comments and the way your humor is. I work at a drug rehab in Oklahoma and I've seen more than a few inches pile up. Sounds like a good system you have up there maybe we should try it.