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December 06, 2012

Target boots Rochester's Park-N-Ride program

On Dec. 17, commuters that use Rochester's south Park-N-Ride route will need to drive a little farther before catching the bus. Since 2008, hundreds of weekday commuters — mostly Mayo Clinic employees — have parked their cars in the south Target store's lot and then rode a city bus into the city.

To the city of Rochester's dismay, that arrangement is coming to an end this month. However, the south Wal-Mart store has eagerly pulled up to fill that spot.

So, on Monday, Dec. 17, the four south Park-N-Ride bus routes will pick up passengers in Wal-Mart's lot instead of Target's.

"We really liked the Target location," says Tony Knauer, Rochester's Transit and parking manager. "Since they first asked us to vacate the area in August, we were hoping they would reconsider."

However, Knauer says the city is appreciative of Wal-Mart's willingness to help and how easy they have been to work with.

Given the growing number of people that use the system to get to work without bringing hundreds of additional vehicles into downtown, the city sees the bus service as very valuable. In fact, Knauer says they hope to add yet a second Park-N-Ride location on the south side of the city.

The city did its best to press the case that the Park-N-Ride is a benefit to Target and should continue.

"If you are the merchant, this is a huge thing that only benefits you and doesn't cost you anything," Knauer says.

Rochester showed the company studies that found the 80,000 Park-N-Ride passengers spent an average of $80 at the Target store in 2011. A letter sent directly to Gregg Steinhafel, Target's CEO, failed to get a response.

So why did Target boot the commuters from its lot, after so many years? It's just implementing a company-wide policy that Rochester had been exempt from all this time.

"In exception to company policy and inconsistent with the practice of the rest of the Target stores across the country, the Rochester store has provided parking for 150 commuters from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday since 2008," stated Target spokeswoman Sarah Van Nevel in response to my query.

Why decide to bring the Rochester site into compliance now after so long?

"Over the last four and a half years, the number of park and ride commuters using Target’s parking lot has grown significantly, creating some disruption to our business," says Van Nevel. "We are no longer able to accommodate the park and ride program in Target’s parking lot."

She went on to point out that "Target values its relationship with the City of Rochester" and the company donates thousands of dollars to local charities and schools.

While Target has been clear that this is solely a policy issue, some people in the Med City have been speculating that this might be a sign that the future of the south store might be in question.

Van Nevel says that definitely is not the case and there is no basis for such a rumor.

"I can confirm that Target remains committed to serving our guests in the Rochester community and has no plans to close this store," she says.

Comments

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This shouldn't even be a problem. The Mayo Clinic should be providing parking for it's employees. The taxpayers should not have to subsidize them.

How about taking care of the people who drive in from the west before adding a second park and ride location on the south side.

The only reasonable option for those coming from the west -- Byron, Kasson, Mantorville, Hayfield, Dodge Center, Owatonna, Claremont, Blooming Prairie -- is Walmart North. And the Walmart North park and ride is a joke -- overcrowded and congested.

The Park and Rides were nice options 5 years ago, but how many thousands of employees/contractors have been hired since? In comparison, how many additional park and ride lots/spaces have been added?

Allen,

how exactly are the taxpayers subsidizing the Mayo employees who are using the park-n-ride option?
Serious question.

Same question as Stephan - that argument makes no sense unless Allen knows something we don't.

Luke - what about the west lot on 2nd street? That is a large lot and I have never seen it full. I think you have to have a special tag for that one but it does currently accomodate a lot of folks coming from the west side.

You know Stephan....the roads they drive to get there....

Why doesn't Mayo contract with Graham Park (home of the County Fair) for parking? Heck, Mayo could even put up a parking structure there which would be a win-win for both the fairgrounds and for Mayo.

Chris,

my guess is they don't see the need to pay for their employees' parking. If Wal-Mart, Target or other places "volunteer" their parking lots (for, by the way, for than just Mayo employees), why pay for something?
Lets face it: if they have a chance to work for the "World Famous Mayo Clinic", most people see the parking as a nuisance, but not a dealbreaker.

Back when the north Target was on the east side of 52 there were rumors that they would move to the west side. Target insisted that they had no plans to move across 52.

Why should Mayo provide parking for any of their employees? If anything, Mayo needs to implement more of a market-oriented approach to the use of their existing infrastructure. As it stands, people who do not drive to work subsidize those who do.

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