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.