A Tale of Three Cities, Act Three

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From: Keith Higgins <keith@houseofhiggins.com
To: "Parking" <parking@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

Keith Higgins wrote:
Dear Mayor Rybak, Metropolitan Council, and Metro Commuter Services, While I applaud your decision to enforce the 2-person per car pool rule and lower car pool parking rates to $20.00 per month in city garages in Minneapolis, I would like to point out that if one chooses to ride a motorcy-cle to work in Minneapolis, in an average 22-day working month, one would pay $88.00 for parking with the city and you don't get to park in the ramp, but beneath it. Weather permitting, I ride to work in Minneapolis every day, as do many other people I know who work in the city.

Car pooling reduces congestion, pollution, and saves fuel. Motorcycling also reduces congestion, pollution, and saves fuel. I submit that by implementing a monthly parking fee for motorcyclists equivalent to the fee for car pools, you would help achieve the goals of less rush-hour traffic, less pollution, and less fuel used.

I realize that motorcycle parking at the ramps is paid for with a small envelope in which the rider places money and deposits it into a box. There are several ways to implement a monthly parking fee for motorcyclists. One could give each rider a unique identifier to write on the envelope instead of depositing cash. One could keep a list of motorcycle license plates of registered riders and check it each day. Currently, the envelopes with money in them are hand-checked against the bikes parked in the ramp every day anyway. Or, you could give each registered rider registration slips to deposit instead of a deposit envelope.

The number of motorcyclists who park at the city ramps is small -if you dou-bled that number through an equivalent and fair fee as compared to car pool-ing, your administrative burden would be small, but the amount of fuel saved and road space gained would be great.

Thank you for your favorable consideration in this matter. Keith W. Higgins, CMSgt, USAF (Retired) Motorcycle Commuter, Downtown Worker

Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2003
From: "Parking"
To: Keith Higgins

Keith,
Since the accepted definition of carpooling is to enter the garage or facility with two or more people a single individual on a motorcycle in not considered a carpool. We do agree that there is a fuel savings by commuting by motor-cycle. While several of our facilities do not allow motorcycle parking at all most that do already have a special rate for these people. Concerning the ques-tion of being able to park in the ramp we have implemented this rule because it is safer for the rider to park under the ramps or in a designated area. This does have some benefits such as easy exit. Should you have questions con-cerning a specific rate or ramp please contact the parking office at 612-673-
2886.

From: Keith Higgins
To: "Parking"

Dear person at "Parking" who didn't sign their letter,... You have missed the point.

I'm not saying motorcycling is carpooling -I'm saying motorcycling is at least as beneficial as carpooling, and motorcyclists deserve the same special parking rate as carpoolers. The special rate you mention "for these people" is $88.00 per month, taken at $4.00 per day. When compared to $20.00 a month for carpooling, it doesn't sound very special anymore.

I am asking for you to end discrimination against a group of people who are providing just as much benefit as carpoolers and set the parking rates for motorcycles at an equivalent rate to carpoolers. You can park 2-4 motorcycles in the space used by one car, yet you get 4 times as much money from each motorcycle as from the single car, if that car is a designated "carpool" car.

On a side note, I disagree with your contention that it is safer for a rider to park under the ramp. Have there been studies done? Were motorcycles ever allowed in the ramp? How many accidents of any kind have occurred in the ramps? The questions could go on and on, but I'd really like to focus on the parking rate issue.

Keith W. Higgins, CMSgt, USAF (Retired)

'Parking' replies:
Keith,

The argument whether or not motorcycling is as beneficial as carpooling also has never really been studied either, but to say you deserve the same benefits as a carpools are misplaced, these are after all completely different topics. The carpool program is to help reduce congestion on the roads corridors and in the Downtown area. Having a single occupancy motorcycle is not reducing con-gestion. Motorcycling to work may reduce emissions( debatable), and save fuel it is not a form of carpooling until you enter the facility with more than two people. Besides, motorcycles already do receive a reduced rate over the regular rates which is actually discriminatory towards single occupancy vehicles.

Ketih replies:
Dear "Parking",

To say that motorcycling and car pooling are two different topics ignores the obvious -have you driven on I-394 and seen the HOV lanes? The Federal Highway Administration administers High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes (called Sane Lanes here) for the entire United States. Here's the entry about I-394 from one of their web sites. <http://hovpfs.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/overview.cfm> "Minneapolis, MN I-394 2 reversible 4.3 (2.7) 6-1 pm, 2-12 am weekends vary 2+HOVs" and <http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/Travel/traffic/hov/hovqalst.htm> where question 15 is about motorcycles: "Why are motorcycles allowed in some HOV lanes? Motorcycles are permitted by federal law to use HOV lanes, even with only one passenger. The rationale behind allowing motorcycles to use HOV lanes is that it is safer to keep two-wheeled vehicles moving than to have them travel in start and-stop traffic conditions. States can choose to override this provision of federal law, if they determine that safety is at risk."

When I was stationed in Washington D. C. and lived in Northern Virginia, the HOV lanes were going to be closed to motorcyclists because the state said it was too dangerous for bikes. A bunch of local bike clubs, led by ABATE of Virginia, set up 24-hour observation of the HOV lanes for a month or so. They counted bikes (and recruited people to ride up and down) and then reported their findings to the state -XXXXX riders and zero accidents. The state backed down.

I disagree with you, "Parking", that having a single occupancy motorcycle doesn't reduce congestion. Have you ever been somewhere where hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists come together? It's amazing -traffic continues to flow. Is it slow? Yes, but it doesn'tstop like traffic does nearly every day commuting in Minneapolis. I agree with you that motorcycling is not a form of car pooling -it is better than car pooling, as you aren't filling up all the space a car takes on the road or in a parking place.

My BMW is equipped with a catalytic converter, just like a car -it's emissions are much lower than almost any car on the road and gets 46 miles per gallon. Yes, motorcycles receive a reduced rate, which is 400% higher than the car-pool rate. In five days of commuting by motorcycle, I pay the same fee as one car pooling vehicle, where the fee is potentially split by two people.

How many cars could park in the space underneath the city garage where (potentially) 20 motorcycles park? Five? What is wrong with charging for the proportional amount of space used by a vehicle when parked? It's not as if people would be fighting to park their car underneath the ramp -it doesn't feel like the safest location available and I've never seen a patrol by the motorcycles. I could be mistaken -perhaps it's under video surveillance.

If the people in the single occupancy vehicles feel discriminated against since motorcycles receive a reduced rate as compared to single occupancy cars, then perhaps they should consider using an HOV as defined by the Federal government; a car with two or more occupants, a bus, or a motorcycle.

I simply seek to get the city to recognize motorcyclists for what they are -users of High Occupancy Vehicles that reduce congestion, save fuel, and reduce pollution, and give them the benefits of said definition, as the Federal Government does.

I find it tiresome to debate with an unnamed person -for all I know you're the webmaster. I have no way of knowing if you are in charge of parking and someone who could actually cause something to change one day, or if you are an intern who answers unsolicited email.

I have added the Data Center for the Metropolitan Council, as their customer relations email address doesn't work, and re-added my acquaintance and fellow rider Andy Goldfine at www.ridetowork.org, to the "cc" line, as I would like to make sure all interested parties have an opportunity to weigh in on the debate.

Keith W. Higgins, CMSgt, USAF (Retired)

MORE FROM MINNEAPOLIS/ ST. PAUL
Todd Holmes wrote:

I am forwarding on to you correspondence I recently had with Patty Carlson, Manager of TDM/ Metro Commuter Services. I hope this help promote the cause of Motorcyclists throughout Minnesota.
Todd Holmes

From: Patty Carlson patty.carlson@metc.state.mn.us
Subject: motorcycles

Thank you taking the time to give us your comments. Motorcycles are per-mitted to use the HOV lanes both on I-394 and I-35W.

Patty Carlson, Manager
TDM/ Metro Commuter Services/ Metropolitan Council

Hi Patty
Thank you for your reply. However, I know that Motorcycle are permitted to use the HOV lanes as well as the non-metered HOV lanes. The point of my initial correspondence is that metc doesn't support motorcycles as an alterna-tive to the commute problem. METC supports Bicycles, why not motorcycles? If you haven't heard of them, there is a Minnesota non profit group 'Ride to Work' that parallels the effort of metc with a focus on Motorcycles. Check out their website <www. ridetowork. org.> As a government backed program, I would think you would be interested in supporting the entire community.
Todd Holmes

To: Todd Holms
From: Patty Carlson
Thanks again.
Metro Commuter Services encourage alternatives to driving alone. We occa-sionally receive questions about motorcycles as well as biking and teleworking and refer them to other resources as necessary. I will look into the website you mentioned and if it works out for us, we can promote it in some upcoming newsletters and on our web site. I am not familiar with the group you men-tioned. Thanks again as we're always looking for ways to encourage people to quit driving alone... and motorcycles may be an alternative for some.
Thanks!

From: agoldfine_ rtw@ridetowork.org
To: Todd Holmes
I appreciate your efforts informing Patty Carlson about the value of trans-portation motorcycling. Each thing like this helps everyone who wishes to com-mute by motorcycle. Groups like METC are for the most part unaware of the potential of motorcycles. I'm a dues paying member of a group called the Association for Commuter Transportation and they are the association for all of the METC type organizations in the country. They are phenominally well funded and are basically a lobbying organization for the huge TEA 21 funds. Their interests involve van pools and stuff like that. Their style is like all the other lobby organizations that I am aware of. I have never been successful at raising any awareness from them about transportation motorcycling, or even having my letters answered. Like most of these organizations, the furtherance of their organization itself appears (to me) to be as high a priority as the con-tent and values. Having motorcycle inquirys included with teleworkers and bicycles as not being of concern to METC and of being "referred to other resources as necessary" is typical. We have a long road ahead of us as motor-cycling commuters. But stick to this and we will cause changes to occur that are favorable for riders everywhere.
Andy