Above is a picture of a parking spot in downtown St. Paul. Specifically, it’s the one on the northeast corner of St. Peter and 5th. Feel free to park your car here and enjoy some of the many businesses and attractions downtown. Just make sure you follow these simple rules:
You can park in this spot for up to an hour between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., as long as you pay the meter; if you park here after 4:30 p.m., it’s free. But, wait: don’t park here at all Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (regardless of whether you paid the meter). Also, don’t leave your car here between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. unless it’s a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday, in which case it’s allowed. Parking meters are strictly enforced, by the way, and failure to obey any one of these rules will result in a $33 fine.
Got all that? Good. Enjoy your time in St. Paul.
Okay, I know the world has bigger problems, but seriously, this is ridiculous. Look, I only got a “C” in my freshman Intro to Logic course in college, so I’m probably just not cut out to tackle St. Paul’s labyrinthine parking restrictions, and I should just resign myself to getting ticketed every few months when I stumble upon some weird parking spot with insane rules. On the other hand, I don’t think a doctorate in philosophy should be a prerequisite to be able to figure out where you can safely park your car — especially in a city that’s half-deserted most of the time.
Thankfully, St. Paul’s business community agrees with me. The local district council is even doing a survey to let people voice their concerns. Please, do me and the rest of the city a favor and tell them all of your parking horror stories. It appears somebody may actually be on the verge of doing something about this situation. In the meantime, I’m going to go fight my second parking ticket in a year…
Make sure you look behind those trees!
One advantage of living in St. Paul is the parking situation: since there are never any people here, you can basically park wherever you want. Even in Lowertown — the one part of downtown St. Paul that shows regular signs of human activity after 5 p.m. — you can usually find an open meter space. Street parking is ample, and generally free after 4:30; this means that, unlike in Minneapolis, you can have a night on the town without getting bilked at some overpriced parking ramp.
Until last weekend, I believed it was basically impossible for anyone with a modicum of intelligence to park illegally in St. Paul. On Friday, however, my wife and I apparently stumbled upon the one block in the entire city that has a weird, arcane parking restriction in place: Wall Street.
Specifically, I mean the stretch of Wall Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets, right next to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. We parked there for about an hour and a half while we had dinner two blocks away at Trattoria Da Vinci. When we got back, there was a $33 parking ticket jammed under my windshield wiper. Huh? We double-checked the restrictions printed on the meter; nothing was there to indicate we were parked illegally. My wife checked the other cars parked in front of us; all of them had been ticketed too. Confused, I walked a little further up the street and finally noticed a sign stating that parking was prohibited between 6 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday.
Not a bad deal for the city, I thought. My wife and I go out to dinner in Lowertown on a Friday evening, they get $33 of my money. But why? Maybe it has to do with the farmer’s market. They’re probably trying to keep people from blocking delivery trucks on Saturday mornings — which is fine. But why can’t I park there on a Friday evening? The vendors aren’t going to roll up at 7 p.m. Friday, unload their merchandise and then wait around in the cold for 12 hours.
I’m surprised the uber-proactive Lowertown Entertainment District isn’t lobbying the city to change this. It’s an unusual, annoying rule that could discourage potential business patrons. Yeah, I know; it’s my fault. I should’ve paid closer attention to the street signs. But seriously, has anyone else ever heard of a street in downtown St. Paul where you can’t park after 4:30 p.m.? And if they’re going to have that restriction, why not print it clearly on the meters so people notice it? Better yet, why not have a parking enforcement officer put hoods on the meters? I mean, since they’re obviously in the area anyway…