Parking in downtown Minneapolis just got a lot less friendly

Many meters have been stunted to a two-hour limit.

Many meters have been stunted to a two-hour limit. Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

If you sensed a disturbance in the force on Monday, and you’re not ready to blame it on the blazing collapse of Notre Dame Cathedral, consider an alternate explanation: Minneapolis changed its downtown parking rules. 

The rates, hours of enforcement, and maximum parking times have altered for some 2,626 parking spots.

Of those, 1,914 saw rate hikes of an average of 70 cents an hour. In some places, it’s just a 50-cent jump, but closer to the downtown core, it jumped from $2 to $3.

It’s not all bad -- 269 spaces actually got about 53 cents cheaper, and 443 didn’t change at all.

But many meters have also been reduced to two-hour limits, including a cadre east of Fifth Avenue South. City officials say it's due to the area's increase in retail and high-density residential buildings, plus Commons Park.

Some folks are naturally upset. There were about 60,000 parking spots in Minneapolis in 2017, and it’s already a pain to park in pretty much all of them. On Twitter, some have called the change “unreasonable,” a “$$$ grab,” and a harsh new reality for people who drive and work downtown.

Off-street parking is, after all, still more expensive than nabbing a metered spot. In 2018, Parking Property Advisors, a national parking and consulting firm, put Minneapolis’ downtown in the top 10 for the highest average hourly parking rates in the country.

But as Steve Cramer of the Minneapolis Downtown Council told MPR last year, that’s good. It means people want to be downtown, and it means that cheap parking is not the city’s top priority. (He still stands by that in light of the recent change.) In fact, Minneapolis is looking to reduce the overall space allotted for cars and use it for housing and offices.

The city is facing a shortage of homes, affordable or otherwise, and studies have shown that in large cities, parking can effectively gobble up those resources if you let it.

Which may be why others on Twitter met the changes with a big old shrug. The fact is, the city hasn’t changed its meter rates downtown for over two decades, and there are plenty of other hills they’re far more willing to die on.

For the rest of us, there’s always the train.