Over and over we've heard that the Central Corridor light rail line running between St. Paul and Minneapolis will eliminate 85% of on-street parking along University Avenue.
Periodically, I bike commute along University, and since I've done some consulting related to Central Corridor on business mitigation, I'm sensitive to impacts on those small businesses that give the street what vitality it has left.
Today, I rode both ways along University from Stadium Village to Lexington. On my return trip during the lunch hour, I noted one side of one block where the on-street parking spots were taken (outside a pawn shop and outlet store). Another block also came close to being full near KSTP-TV. (It's also close to a limited stop number 50 bus route stop.)
Otherwise, I did not see a block with free or metered parking that came close to being half full with parked cars. Most could easily sustain an 85% on-street parking loss. This is consistent with other informal parking surveys I've taken along that stretch.
Some business owners along the avenue say lost parking is a problem:
Alan Guttenfelder, owner of Swank Retro antiques, said he relies solely on street parking for his business at 1910 University Ave. W. Guttenfelder said he has 22 spaces in front of his store, but that will shrink to three after light rail operation begins.
“We are really short on parking now,” he said. “There is one-hour parking in front of my store now because too many people are trying to park there for extended hours."
Swank Retro is a cool store near Iris Park and Porky's Diner. I won't dispute Guttenfelder's claim about parking's importance to his business. But he's only open there Friday through Sunday, and Monday there were plenty of open spaces.
I seek out gritty, diverse urban streets. I have a high tolerance for decay and an overdeveloped appreciation of the semi-inept underdog. I love that the avenue has the "home of the 30-dollar tire."
But make some slow runs down University Avenue and its shuttered storefronts before you swallow the line that light rail construction will kill University Avenue businesses.