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Minneapolis prepares for June car-share program

As many as 250 vehicles could be available to residents who need a car on occasion but have no desire to own a vehicle.

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Car2Go operates a car-sharing program in Austin, Texas.

Come June, as many as 250 vehicles could be available to Minneapolis residents who need a car on occasion but have no desire to own a vehicle.

The Minneapolis City Council has voted to ask city staff to negotiate agreements with several car-share companies, some of which could use on-street parking spaces for the first time.

So far, Car2Go has been selected to participate in a two-year pilot program, with other companies expected to be added by early summer.

“There are folks who need a car for a day,” said Council Member Betsy Hodges who, along with Council Member Robert Lilligren, sponsored an amendment Friday to include more than one company in the pilot program.

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“They’re going to use the car all day long to do every errand they have to do that month or that week and then not use a car again for another month or another week,” said Hodges.

The shared cars can be rented for a few hours or a full day at rates that generally include all operating expenses. The companies that use on-street parking will be asked to pay the city a fee for that service.

“The big moves are to light rail, streetcars and bus rapid transit, but that won’t get anybody everywhere they want to go,” said Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who chairs the Transportation and Public Works Committee.

“Shared cars are a real addition,” she added.

“It’s one more tool in the tool box,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak, who suggested that the city might look into the idea of creating smaller parking places for the shared cars, which tend to be subcompacts.

Council members expect to vote on adding more companies to the pilot program and the details of the street parking next month.

Recreational fires restrictions

Minneapolis already has quite a list of restrictions for backyard recreational fires, but a new rule has been added that will prohibit them on days when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issues an air-pollution public-health advisory.

Last summer, there were four days when recreational fires would have been banned under the new rule.

“For individuals with asthma or emphysema or other health concerns, recreational fires in the neighborhood can be a serious issue,” said Council Member Cam Gordon, who brought forth the new fire restriction.

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Recreation fires are permitted between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. and must burn only untreated wood. They also must be less than 3 feet in diameter and less than 2 feet high and be at least 25 feet from any structure or other combustible material.

“I’m aware that with the rules we have now, there are not many backyards in Minneapolis where you can actually, legally, have a fire,” said Colvin Roy, who questioned the wisdom of sending a fire rig to a recreational fire.

The Fire Department is working on how it will react to complaints about illegal recreational fires.

Air-pollution public-health advisories issued by the MPCA will be listed on the city’s web pages. To sign up for air quality alerts, citizens can go here.