Sonn, a mapping and geography specialist for a real estate company, has followed the debate over installing parking meters on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. The city council considered the idea last year, only to have it shouted down in October by angry citizens and businesses, which insisted parking on that street should stay free.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman had backed adding meters for two reasons. Yes, there was the money; the city was expected to draw about $1 million in revenue over the next two years, money that now might have to come through property tax hikes. But Coleman also said adding meters would increase the amount of vehicle turnover in that area, saying that as it stands, cars stay parked and unmoved for long stretches, hurting local businesses.
Anti-meter businesses said this contention was flat-out wrong, and that there was already plenty of natural turnover on Grand. Mike Sonn sided with Coleman. When it snowed last Wednesday, Sonn got his chance to prove his point. Boy did he.
So many cars unmoved on Grand yesterday. It'll be hard to count them all.
Here are two business vehicles. pic.twitter.com/P59itVQ9dR
On his ride back home, Sonn photographed dozens of cars still under a layer of the snow that had started falling that morning. If these cars were still snow-covered Wednesday evening, that meant they hadn't moved an inch since that morning. (Unless we are to believe the people of St. Paul are able to drive around town without the use of their windshield.)
Just slightly down in front of Red Balloon Book Store there are 8+ abandoned cars. pic.twitter.com/0MMS4Q2037— Lanes on Cleveland (@mikesonn) March 24, 2016
Sonn estimates that maybe a quarter of the cars parked there hadn't moved all day. He started taking pictures of the cars in question and posting them on Twitter.
"I thought, if other people can see it, they can start thinking about it," Sonn says.
Free all day parking for apartments. I stupidly paid $60/mo! pic.twitter.com/wdq4mDbHom— Lanes on Cleveland (@mikesonn) March 24, 2016
To Sonn, revenue for the city is just an "added bonus." He's more concerned about having available parking to help local businesses — even the ones that argued against parking meters, and said their businesses would be harmed.
"We need that parking turnover for people to have access to these businesses," he says. "And clearly, we're not getting that."
Further up the block because there were SO MANY CARS abandoned. pic.twitter.com/vF37VSr1Pk— Lanes on Cleveland (@mikesonn) March 24, 2016