Friday, March 21, 2008

Light Rail Moves St. Paul Toward A Towing Nightmare


1.) Nobody seems to perceive the "towing nightmare" shaping up
due to elimination of parking spots along light rail route.

2.) "Merging" of lanes is utterly impractical with buses stopping in
right lane, especially with time delays due to disabled

3.) Run one No. 16 bus one block off University. Create a one-way
street on
the less-developed side. Eliminate MORE parking,

According to the Pioneer Press, St. Paul's light rail plan will mean the loss of at least 625 parking spots. If more stations are added--which many are hoping for and pushing for--as many as 985 parking spots could be lost.

Am I the only one who sees a massive "towing nightmare" shaping up?

Who mourns a frog?

This article talked about a meeting taking place, and I noticed it was conveniently located at one of my favorite thrift stores, where I have purchased--for example--the cool Star Wars light saber my little son calls "Mr. Stabby."

When my son has weekend visitation, and we go to sleep in my deluxe apartment not far from St. Paul's notorious "Frog Town" neighborhood, I sleep with my baseball bat--"Froggy Frogtown"--and my son sleeps with his toy light saber, "Mr. Stabby."

The light rail is going to run right through the heart of Frogtown and--like a frog in science class--I suspect that beating heart will be cut right out, as a kind of "sacrifice" for some notion of "progress" for "the greater good."

Not that I'm opposed to light rail. I'm very much in favor of it. But to pretend it won't change the core of those communities through which it will run...naive at best, and outright deception at worst. Some of those businesses, like the thrift stores and the small ethnic eateries, simply won't survive. The property values will go up, and the all-too-earthy aspects of Frog Town and Midtown will become yuppiefied and gentrified.

Which is good. Portions of Frog Town are really scary. When I drive through with my son, we play a game called "spot the dealers." The Midtown area isn't much better.

I see the future, and it's a traffic jam

But anyway...I went to the meeting of the Central Corridor Community Advisory Committee, which was held in a very nice community room. I learned a lot about the proposed light rail, including why eliminating so much parking was virtually unavoidable, and turning the street into two lanes was equally necessary.

The technical explanations made sense. In fact, after watching a video simulation of driving down the future University Avenue, I was in favor of eliminating even MORE parking. The idea that two lanes would become one lane in order to save parking just struck me as a nightmare and numerous fender benders waiting to happen. GET RID OF ALL THE PARKING on University Avenue, I say, and ram the light rail down the middle.

Plus the idea that buses would simply STOP in the right lane and traffic would wait behind...well, I've seen that along Fourth Street near Dinkytown, and it leads to accidents, near misses, and high levels of frustration. Bad idea.

I've seen times it takes as much as five minutes to get a disabled passenger on or off the bus due to awkward wheelchair movement and things that go wrong as the driver tries to secure the disabled passenger. It's not unheard of for two passengers in wheelchairs to get on together, or exit together, or for one to exit while another enters. It can take a LONG time. Traffic is going to be backed up from Transfer Road all the way back to the State Capitol, I swear.

Honestly, Metro Transit should run one of the No. 16 buses one block off University, at least on the less developed side. Turn that streets into a one way. And, yes, eliminate even MORE parking. There's really no other way around the problem. Are you hoping people will live with the problem for a few years and then demand changes? Because that's the situation I see being created with present plans.

Your fish decal won't stop a tow

So begins the towing nightmare. Parking in that area is already a brutal game of "survival of the fittest," and now St. Paul is poised to eliminate (at a minimum) 625 spots and could eliminate, potentially, 985. Meanwhile, both St. Paul and Minneapolis are engaged in abusive towing practices which--as the previous St. Paul horror story makes clear--appear to especially target low-income people who lack off-street parking.

Every time there is a s0-called snow emergency, St. Paul already tows ONE THOUSAND CARS. Now the situation appears poised to become WORSE.


The parking may very well need to be eliminated. I am not arguing in favor of keeping more parking or using productive land for nothing more than spots to stash vehicles. Though "my identity is all tangled up in my wheels" I am appalled at "car culture" ruining the world.

But abusive towing has got to stop, and where I see St. Paul heading is a towing nightmare.

More on the meeting itself in another post.

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