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LRT riders accused of hogging street parking
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Some residents near the 38th St. LRT station have posted homemade signs, urging outsiders not to park on their street. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
Some south Minneapolis residents who live near the new light rail line complain that commuters are taking up all of the residential street parking. City and transit officials say they hope the addition of more park-and-ride spots will ease the strain on local residents.

Minneapolis, Minn. — One block west of the 38th St. LRT station in south Minneapolis, a crew upgrading residential gas lines is running into the same problem that's been frustrating local residents since LRT came online in late June. They need to be digging in the streets, but they can't find the owners of several cars because they're gone on LRT trains.

On this weekday morning it's really not even that bad. There are several open spaces on either side of 29th Ave., where some residents of the street have posted homemade signs along the boulevard which read, 'Don't live here? Don't park here!'

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Image Myrtle Loch

Emile Bernier, who says he's lived on 29th for 35 years, complains LRT riders are using his street as a park-and-ride lot.

"They're all very unhappy. You can't park in front of your place," Bernier says.

Bernier, 75, says he sometimes has to park blocks away because his street is often packed with cars from outside the neighborhood.

"Anywhere you can find a spot -- six, seven blocks down, or wherever you have to," he says. "I mean, all the streets are the same. They're all invaded by the railroad."

Across the street, Myrtle Loch echoes her neighbor's sentiment. They both like the train, but they can't stand all the cars.

"We thought, everybody thought, that they would be taking the buses downtown to the rail station, but they're not," says a frustrated Loch. "They're taking their cars down and parking all over, up and down, anywhere that they can go."

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Image A 'hide-and-rider'

Transit officials label these unwelcome commuters -- people like Jane Nordmeyer -- "hide-and-riders."

"I just started this job downtown and I probably wouldn't have taken it if I had to drive and park downtown," says Nordmeyer.

For $40 per month, Nordmeyer can ride LRT whenever she wants. She says it would cost nearly four times that just to park in downtown Minneapolis.

She says she feels badly for the people who live where she and other hide-and-riders are parking. On this day, she moved from the spot she initially chose, to avoid a possible confrontation with some people out on their front porch.

"I don't blame them. I was just hoping where I parked, maybe they're away at work today," she says.

Minneapolis City Council staff say they've heard complaints about outsider parking from numerous people who live near the LRT line. Some are petitioning the city for what's called critical parking declarations. That would restrict parking to local residents who have a permit.

Metro Transit is planning to add 250 park-and-ride spaces near the Lake St. stop in October. In November, the size of the park-and-ride lot at Fort Snelling will nearly double. And in December, when the LRT route is extended to the Mall of America, another 600 spaces will become available.

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Image Mike Sachi

Mike Sachi, who oversees public parking for the city of Minneapolis, says those additional spots should ease the strain on street parking.

Sachi says officials want to collect more information before they begin imposing parking regulations around LRT stations. Sometime around September, after the line has been up and running for two months, Sachi says officials will analyze data to determine what can be done.

"We will work to continuously monitor the issues -- the parking pressures," Sachi says. "Each neighborhood has to be looked at individually, and the situation or the solution that works best for them may not work best for another station. So, we're kind of taking it on a case-by-case individual basis in dealing with the issues that way."

So far, according to Metro Transit, LRT ridership is dramatically outpacing expectations. In its first two weeks, nearly 70 percent more riders than projected boarded the new trains.

Looking closely at how LRT stations affect neighborhoods along the Hiawatha corridor could provide planners with important insight as they work to expand LRT, possibly to include a route linking the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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