Students returning creates parking woesKaren Boehm and her neighbors dread this time of year. Boehm’s street a few blocks from Minnesota State University Moorhead turns into overflow parking every fall after students return. “It’s just a mess every day of the week,” said Boehm, who lives on Fifth Avenue South.
By: By Amy Dalrymple, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
MOORHEAD, Minn. — Karen Boehm and her neighbors dread this time of year.
Boehm’s street a few blocks from Minnesota State University Moorhead turns into overflow parking every fall after students return.
“It’s just a mess every day of the week,” said Boehm, who lives on Fifth Avenue South.
The Moorhead City Council has a consultant studying parking around MSUM and Concordia College that is due this fall.
“We hear parking is terrible, but people’s perceptions of what is too much parking in front of their homes is different to different people,” said Lisa Vatnsdal, neighborhood services manager.
The study is of little consolation to Boehm, who said she’s been trying to get city leaders to address the issue for the 14 years she’s lived there.
But Mark Altenburg, City Council member who represents the MSUM area, said he won’t let the study just sit on a shelf.
“We can study something to death, but unless we do something it’s not going to make any difference,” Altenburg said.
A new crop of students keeps Moorhead police and community service officers busy every fall, said Lt. Tory Jacobson.
Common complaints are that students block driveways or sidewalks, Jacobson said.
“I know their class is only an hour or only two hours and they really need to get there, but it’s very important they recognize that they have to respect the homeowners,” Jacobson said.
Boehm has presented each City Council member with a book of photos documenting parking problems. In the winter, some residential streets turn into one-lane roads with students parked on both sides, Boehm said.
City Council member Dan Hunt said parking seems to be less of an issue around Concordia, the area he represents.
MSUM made changes this fall to parking regulations to make more spaces available for students, said Greg Lemke, director of public safety.
“We do have plenty of space, it’s just people want more convenience,” Lemke said. “That’s the problem.”
The university also kept the price of parking permits the same this year at $110, Lemke said.
MSUM sophomore Kirsten Ivers said that is too expensive on top of paying for text books. So she drives around until she finds a spot on the street.
“It’s horrible,” Ivers said. “It’s hard to find a spot.”
Some students say they don’t buy permits because the university sells more permits than there are spaces and they end up parking on the street anyway.
Sophomore Paul Koppinger, who opted for a permit this fall, said he might have to drive around for a spot, but it’s better than trying his luck on the street.
MSUM transfer student Rachael Opstedal said the city’s parking restrictions aren’t clearly marked on the streets, and she’s gotten tickets as a result.
Altenburg, the council member representing the MSUM neighborhood, said he’d like to see more consistency with the parking rules in that area.
“We’ve got this hodge podge of parking restrictions,” he said.
After receiving results of the study, council members may consider some type of permit system for residents, Altenburg said.
Many homes in that area have one-stall garages and narrow driveways and residents complain they need room on the street for their own cars, he said.
A resident permit program has been discussed in Fargo for residents near North Dakota State University.
Senior Planner Bob Stein said the city established an outline of how such a program would work, but residents never came forward to ask for permits.
Another option Moorhead leaders may look at is changing Metro Area Transit routes to get more students to take the bus, Altenburg said.
He often hears students don’t ride the bus to campus because they’re late for class if the bus is stopped by a train.
Vatnsdal said the city may need to get more strict with towing vehicles during times of snow removal.
“The streets just get too narrow when we have a bad winter,” she said.
The study is expected to be complete this month or next, Vatnsdal said, and the city will be holding public hearings to gather input.
In the neighborhood near NDSU, residents have seen fewer parking issues since the city hired a private security firm to enforce parking, said Connie Norheim, who lives on 16th Street North.
“Previously, I would come out to go to work and find cars blocking my driveway,” Norheim said.
Amy Rand, president of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, said residents were concerned this fall that the neighborhood might absorb even more cars now that NDSU is charging students to park in the Fargodome lot.
That lot had been designated as a free park-and-ride lot for the past two years, said Rob Lynch, NDSU parking and transportation manager. This year a Fargodome permit costs $60.
But so far, Norheim and Rand said they have not noticed an impact on parking in the neighborhood.
And Lynch said the lot, which traditionally parks 300 to 400 cars, has 500 permit-holders with more permits being sold.
An NDSU campus parking permit costs $155 for the year.
That means a segment of students and staff are always going to choose to park on the street, Lynch said.
“You can’t compete with free,” Lynch said. “If we’re charging $155, and there’s a location that a student or staff person can park that’s free, they tend to take the free option.”
As NDSU has grown, some have asked why the university doesn’t construct a parking facility.
Lynch said a parking structure would cost about $8 million to $9 million, and it would have to be financed through parking permits.
“That would have to come on the backs of the permit-holders,” he said.
Amy Dalrymple is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.