New lot system cause anger, frustration at Lyn-Lake

By Robyn Repya

Some patrons of the popular Lyn-Lake area are frustrated by the new parking payment system at the lot on the 2900 block of Garfield Avenue South. New $10,000 electronic machines have produced customer complaints to businesses and the city -- the lot's owner.

The city replaced manual pay boxes with computerized machines in late June, and parkers are having a difficult time adjusting.

Allan Staples, box office manager for the Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., reports lots of complaints, mostly that the system takes too long and makes it difficult to add the correct amount of money.

He said so many theater patrons complained about missing show times that management sent out notices to every subscriber, asking them to come early if they were going to park in the lot.

The machines ask patrons to tap in their space numbers and insert money to buy parking time. Sounds easy enough, right?

However, Tony Stone, a city parking analyst and president of the Minnesota Association of Parking Professionals, acknowledges a common complaint: the machine doesn't take bills fast enough -- producing lines reaching almost a dozen people long on a busy weekend night.

Such a problem angered many waiting in line on a muggy Thursday night, as they became late for a Jungle production. The next night, an attendant had to help simmering customers figure out whether to put money in the machines before selecting the time parked or after.

Stone said the machines do work the way they were designed to. "The machines are not breaking or doing anything incorrect," he said, adding that complaints have steadily decreased since the machines were introduced.

Employees at Fuji Ya, 600 W. Lake St. and It's Greek To Me, 626 W. Lake St. said they have also received complaints about the new machines.

Fuji Ya owner Tom Hanson said customer dissatisfaction is frustrating. "The machines are fairly confusing -- even to repeat customers," he said.

Hanson said he spends a lot of time apologizing for the city equipment. He complained that it seems impossible to deal with the city without problems.

Jay Viskocil, a manager at JP American Bistro, 2937 Lyndale Av. S., said because of customer complaints, JP's owner has made a few calls to the city to notify them of the problem, but the restaurant's hands are tied. "There's really nothing we can do about it," he said.

Stone said people should be patient with the new technology and read the directions printed on the machine. However, he said he's looking into getting a fast bill acceptor and extra instructional signage.

Stone said the Lyn-Lake Business Association requested the new machines, and his office originally fought to keep the old pay box system because of the cost.

Hanson, a member of the Lyn-Lake Business Association, said they requested a new, safer system that would ensure revenue was collected but not this new system. "It's frustrating for all involved," he said.

Stone said because the machines force people to pay through electronic timekeeping, the city gets more revenue and -- despite the current need for live instructors -- it spends less in employee labor.

For questions regarding the lot, call the city at 673-2886.

Nicollet Avenue reopening delayed Repaving Nicollet Avenue South between 46th Street and Minnehaha parkway has been delayed due to utility work.

That stretch of Nicollet Avenue, long closed to through traffic, is now expected to re-open by Oct. 15, according to the city project manager. That is more than a month past schedule.

The $4 million repaving project consists of road, curb, gutter and sidewalk replacement, plus added greenspace. While no traffic lanes or parking areas will be changed, a left turn lane will be added on Nicollet turning onto 50th Street.

Project manager and engineer Robb Urquhart, said although Xcel Energy picked up their pace with their utility work along the project, CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco jumped into the project late, delaying city work at least a month.

Rolf Lund, public relations manager for Center Point Energy Minnegasco, said their maintenance consisted of replacing steel natural gas mains along the Nicollet's east side with plastic, which makes them safer and easier to work with. He said they began their maintenance work July 24 and fell behind schedule, but now estimate work will be done Sept. 3.

Lund said sometimes projects just fall behind; however, another work crew was added recently to help correct that. "We are doing our best to expedite the process," he said.

Despite the delay, Urquhart said the city has already begun working at the 46th Street end of the project, laying black top and constructing curbs, gutters and driveways -- a process that will continue after the road is reopened until total completion sometime in 2004. -- Robyn Repya