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…