As the Minneapolis Eagles Club’s building manager, Mike Hadel makes a routine of counting semi-trucks on blocks surrounding the event space in the city’s Seward neighborhood.
On busy nights, he estimates at least a handful of large commercial vehicles take up parking spaces that could have otherwise gone to Eagles patrons, resulting in $1,000 or more in revenue losses per shift. People end up going somewhere else for drinks or music where parking is easier.
“Older people say, ‘I’m not going to walk,’ and I don’t blame them,” he recalled. “[The city of Minneapolis] had a snow emergency — you’re supposed to move your vehicles — and going around, I counted 16 trucks across a six-block radius.”
Hadel’s routine may eventually have to change, thanks to an initiative by the city of Minneapolis. The city’s public works department and City Council members are considering a ban on tractor-trailer parking across all city streets — a change that would cap years of complaints from business leaders and patrons in areas like Seward, but also one that drivers say may only make the situation worse.
An ‘ongoing struggle’ for neighborhoods
Currently, city code prohibits commercial vehicles, or any truck over 9,000 pounds, from parking on either side of streets in residential areas, except for when the drivers are loading or unloading deliveries. That leaves some commercial and industrial areas in Minneapolis open for truck drivers to park overnight, though business owners in those areas can apply for “no large truck parking” permits on a parcel-by-parcel basis.
“Even in areas where it has been allowed, it has been constrained,” said Robin Garwood, a policy aid for Council Member Cam Gordon, who represents Ward 2, which covers the Seward neighborhood.
Gordon’s office started researching the parking issue years ago, after business owners and residents in Seward inundated the council member with complaints.
“It’s been an ongoing struggle for businesses,” said Kerry Cashman, director of the Seward Neighborhood Group. “Their front doors get blocked; the semis aren’t always thoughtful about how close they park to driveways, and so if businesses have trucks of their own, they can’t get into their parking lot. … It’s also dangerous for bikers going by the trucks parked in the bike lanes.”
Seward Redesign, a neighborhood group focused on redevelopment, has pitched the idea of turning an empty lot at 26th Street and Hiawatha Avenue into a temporary space for semis to pay and park overnight, according to Garwood and Cashman. But truck drivers did not like that idea so it did not catch on.
To address neighborhood leaders’ concerns at City Hall, the Ward 2 team initially went to the city’s public works department to get more signs to prohibit semi-truck parking along popular streets, Garwood said. But the public works department turned down that request and instead began exploring whether the city should ban semi parking altogether.
“Public works said … ‘Let’s not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on signs — let’s just pull the band-aid off instead of continuing to chase this thing around,’” he said.
In addition to Seward, current zoning allows truck-trailer parking in the area of Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street, near the Kmart, as well as in pockets of north Minneapolis’ Ward 4 and a southwestern tip of the city near 62nd Street and Interstate 35W. There, in Ward 11, semi-truck parking sometimes spills out to neighboring residential streets, Garwood said.
Now, city staff in public works and the traffic enforcement unit are trying to figure out where, exactly, truck drivers would go should the city move forward with a ban, Garwood said. They are studying travel patterns in peer cities nationwide and rules across the metro.
In St. Paul, for example, city code bans the overnight parking of large commercial trucks in residential neighborhoods, just like Minneapolis. But unlike in Minneapolis, St. Paul has not received a high number of complaints over the issue, according to the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections.
In cities outside the metro, truckers rely on public rest areas or private truck stops (Cenex, Holiday, Tesoro, etc.) for eating and sleeping before getting on the road again.
According to a 2019 state analysis, there are about 4,850 such spaces outside the Twin Cities metro currently. But John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association, said that number is decreasing as more private landowners limit such parking.
Truck drivers often use mobile apps — Park My Truck, TruckSmart, myPilot and Trucker Path — that show where they can fuel and park to sleep between destinations.
On interstates, commercial truck drivers are typically on duty 14 hours each day, 11 of which are driving time, Hausladen said. “What that means is, by the end of that … they’re really looking for a place to park to be ready for the next day,” he said.
Hausladen said members of the association are talking about the possible ban in Minneapolis. And while the group sympathizes with the city’s efforts to manage its streets and address residents’ concerns, Haulsaden said, it prefers a “targeted approach” to parking limits over an “outright ban.”
“Anything that further restricts for safe overnight truck parking is going to make the situation worse,” he said.
“Banning trucks effectively bans everyone’s ability to get the things that they want in a timely manner,” he said. “When you limit truck parking, you limit the ability for that freight to be delivered.”
Where the idea goes from here
City spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said in an emailed statement that the city is gathering public feedback and shares people’s “concerns and issues with the growing number of large trucks parking on streets within the city.”
Project leaders are inviting residents and business leaders citywide to discuss the issue at Seward’s Matthews Park Wednesday evening. There, Garwood said, city staff is set to release more details of the parking proposal, as well as what they’ve learned about practices in other cities.
In February, researchers will reach out to truck drivers and truck delivery companies, Garwood said. After those public engagement sessions, researchers are planning to present policy recommendations to the City Council this spring. From there, the council could choose to write and approve an ordinance banning semi-truck parking.
Both Cashman and Hadel, of the Eagles Club, said their concern does not mean they don’t think truck drivers deserve safe places to park; instead, they take issue with what makes sense for their busy, bicycle-focused area.
“I’m not anti-trucking, and I’m not anti-trucker,” Hadel said. “But we’ve all got rules to follow.”