In Minneapolis, More Spaces and Fewer Cars
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In Minneapolis, More Spaces and Fewer Cars

Minneapolis adds parking, hopes you won't use it

The city of Minneapolis has a complicated relationship with cars. It used to require a ratio of new parking spaces for every new building developed. But the city eliminated those requirements to help developers control the cost of housing. Pre-pandemic, the city also raised street parking prices to $3 an hour to push multi-hour parkers into downtown ramps. 

The city has lost a lot of parking revenue with the semi-abandonment of downtown.

But in 2020, the city added over 1,000 street parking spaces in the downtown core, as the seeming culmination of these efforts. Why? 

It’s not clear that there’s a single cohesive policy in play; instead, it appears it’s the intersection of several different initiatives. The added spaces were the result of an audit of parking in the core of downtown, which found many purposeless no-parking zones, says street parking manager Dillon Fried. He says total spaces in the city are in “a constant state of flux. We seem to always be losing them to different projects, whether it be development, street reconstructions, new bike lanes, or transit priority lanes.” 

parking meter illustrationOne thing is clear, however: The city has lost a lot of parking revenue with the semi-abandonment of downtown. 

At year-end in 2019, parking revenue from metered spaces reached an all-time high. It has yet to recover (see below). Demand is anticipated to increase as people continue to emerge from pandemic isolation. “Pricing parking is one of the main tools to regulate the demand,” Fried says, though as yet downtown rates remain unchanged.

Fried reiterated that it remains the city’s transportation policy to encourage modes of transportation like biking, walking, or public transit. “The city has these policy objectives to increase the density in the city to respond to the climate emergency,” he says, “but it is going to take a long time to get there,” because the city has been zoned and developed for auto users since the 1950s.

The elimination of parking minima in the zoning code was to keep the overhead of building housing from being “buried in the cost of rent,” Fried says, noting some renters don’t have cars but still pay the price for construction of parking. 

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Ultimately, equilibrium in the city’s parking state of flux will likely take a long while to achieve, he says.


Minneapolis Parking Metrics

Minneapolis is adding parking downtown. But the city also wants to reduce car usage. Urbanists and businesses on Hennepin Avenue are at war over plans to remove street parking south of Franklin Avenue. Rather than wade into that, here’s some undisputed data on parking in the city.parking chart