One thousand and three. That’s the number of parking spaces the Metropolitan Council is proposing to cut along University Avenue to make room for the Central Corridor light rail line. The cuts have many business owners worried about what effect this will have on their sales if customers are not able to park at a convenient distance.
The University Avenue Business Association (UABA) met on Jan. 29 with concerned business owners to discuss parking solutions and to look at other cities who have light rail projects with similar conditions to those on University Avenue. According to UABA staff member Linda Winsor, many business owners do not feel that there has been adequate communication about the parking cuts and “business owners are very concerned and haven’t had their questions answered.”
During the meeting, representatives from U-Plan, an organization that was created to be an advocate for small businesses along the light rail line, set up stations where attendants could see detailed plans from light rail projects in Denver, San Diego, Portland, and Sacramento. The Director of U-Plan, Adam Maleitzke, also gave a visual demonstration of Portland’s Yellow Line light rail. According to Maleitzke, the light rail line in Portland is important to look at because the on-street parking was preserved by having only one lane of traffic in each direction and by using painted instead of structured traffic medians He said that the current Metropolitan Council plan would have two lanes of traffic in each direction but no parking lane. If the use of painted instead of structured traffic medians was applied to the Central Corridor line it would mean cutting the traffic lanes down to one but the painted medians would take up less space, and allow for more flexibility in the future if parking spaces needed to be cut and an extra traffic lane added.
Maleitzke could not say whether or not going down to one lane was a realistic model for the Central Corridor line but he did say that a similar plan suggested by St. Paul City Council Member Russ Stark involved keeping both lanes of traffic open during the peak traffic times and then closing down one lane to be used for parking during designated times when traffic slowed.
Winsor said that even though the UABA meeting did not produce a consensus about what the University Avenue businesses will do to address the parking cuts, it was a way to start the conversation. “It’s important [for the business owners] to be presented with more information than they have been,” she said.
Sadie Lundquist is a student at the University of Minnesota and an intern at the TC Daily Planet.