Improving signage and enforcement of on-street parking, developing consistent rules for permit parking districts and using striping to make on-street spaces more efficient are some of the ideas being sought to improve parking congestion in Saint Paul’s West End neighborhood.

The West Seventh/Fort Road Federation reviewed a parking study and survey results for permit parking Area 7 on January 10, and forwarded several recommendations to the City Council for consideration.

Area 7 covers several blocks on both sides of the West Seventh Street and Smith Avenue intersection, including sections of Forbes, Harrison and Goodrich avenues, and Garfield, Douglas, Leech, Wilkin and McBoal streets. Most of the district was created in 1991 to address concerns about commuter and event parking. Hospital and medical office parking was also a factor.

Small sections of Douglas and Goodrich were added to the district in 2018 to address spillover business parking. That triggered a city-sponsored parking study that was published in 2019.

The recommendations of the Fort Road Federation on January 10 are among the more modest ones for short-term changes outlined in the study. The district council is also recommending that any long-term changes should be considered holistically.

“Parking issues are really dealt with on a piecemeal basis,” said Casey Carmody, chair of the district council’s Transportation and Land Use Committee. According to him, there is also a need to encourage walking, biking and the use of public transit to reduce parking demand.

“Parking issues are really dealt with on a piecemeal basis,” said Casey Carmody, chair of the district council’s Transportation and Land Use Committee. According to him, there is also a need to encourage walking, biking and the use of public transit to reduce parking demand.

Other district council members want to see more bike racks. Federation board president Dana deMaster would like to see Metro Transit extend downtown’s 50-cent bus fare zone along West Seventh to promote transit ridership.

One complaint is that streets in Area 7 do not have consistent permit parking rules. Some blocks allow no parking except by permit, while others allow two-hour parking from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. except by permit.

The current parking recommendations were informed by a new survey that was sent to 600 people. Of the 109 who responded, 79 percent had Area 7 permits and 93 percent had a motor vehicle.

Residents had mixed feelings about parking solutions, but strongly opposed taking away daytime permit parking. Residents and businesses surveyed oppose adding parking meters. Both groups find permit parking rules to be confusing.

Fourteen businesses responded. Most said removing free parking would negatively affect customers and employees. They supported the ability to park for up to two hours in posted permit areas.

Longer-term ideas outlined in the study could be considered in the future. The most ambitious and potentially costly idea would be closing some streets that cross West Seventh to create more parking. That idea has been considered up and down much of the street over the years. Eight intersections have been suggested as possibilities, including Smith-McBoal, Goodrich-Dousman, Western-Superior, Ann-Superior and Western-Saint Clair.

Another idea is to expand the use of privately owned lots for public parking. That could come into play when planning for the Riverview Corridor modern streetcar line gets further along.

— Jane McClure

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