Lee Schafer
See more of the story

There’s a study underway to estimate just how many people will use transit to get to the new soccer stadium once it gets built in St. Paul.

Not sure what the grad students will study. It’s a dead certainty that lots of fans will use transit, if only because it doesn’t look like there will be enough parking to make going there with a car any fun.

This kind of thinking seems like more of what we have seen lately from policymakers, who want to help people choose how best to get around by heavily tilting the field away from driving.

They don’t seem to only want to make other options, like transit, more attractive. The aggravating part, at least in the heart of the metro area, is that they seem even more interested in making the experience of using a car get a lot worse.

The looming end of the drive-through lanes at Minneapolis stores such as pharmacies is a good example. It’s fast and convenient for a lot of people to pick up pharmacy items from their cars, but having a line of idling cars can be a nuisance for people who walk up.

The solution proposed in Minneapolis? Don’t let a drive-through lane get built in the first place.

That’s how City Hall makes your car just a little less useful.

To accommodate 20,000 soccer fans in St. Paul, the plan seems to be to not build new parking, although this is still at the talking stage.

Skipping the cost of parking that would only get used for soccer games might seem sensible, as parking ramps surely aren’t cheap. Yet that parking could double as a park-and-ride lot for the nearby Green Line light rail station.

If workday parking there were to cost $40 a month, and you add in a $76 per month transit pass, a soccer stadium park-and-ride would turn out to be a screaming deal compared with ever-increasing parking rates in downtown Minneapolis.

The good news for fans of transit is that the soccer stadium, to be off Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, will be on one of the best-connected sites outside of the two main downtowns.

It’s going to be served by the inaugural line of bus rapid transit called the A Line, the busy Green Line light-rail route and popular conventional bus routes.

The new bus rapid transit line could be an intriguing option, one example of why it’s not fair to say that making the car-driving experience worse is all transit advocates have been up to. Taking a conventional bus still feels like a lot of bumping and lurching, but hopefully that won’t be the case with the new service. It sure isn’t with light rail.

To climb aboard a light-rail train in the Twin Cities is to experience a gentle ride through a vibrant, 21st-century global city, with nicely designed and safe stations and a clean, comfortable, smoothly running train.

One problem with light-rail service, though, is that for at least the first couple of soccer seasons in St. Paul it won’t extend any farther north or west than Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. It goes south out of Minneapolis but doesn’t cross the Minnesota River and to the east it stops in downtown St. Paul.

What about the fans a long way from a light-rail line, like in Cottage Grove or Blaine, home to a whole complex of soccer fields?

For soccer fans living by those Blaine soccer fields, the Google Maps trip planner suggests it is possible to get home from the area around the soccer stadium on transit. The problem is that the last trip of the day would mean leaving just after 5 p.m. So much for an evening game.

Metro Transit might step in with added service, as it does with its Twins Express buses and Northstar commuter trains. The park-and-ride spots on the Blue Line light rail also have helped make rail a good option for south suburban Twins and Vikings fans.

The Green Line running by the site of the soccer stadium doesn’t have any park-and-ride lots, and best as can be determined, neither will the A Line bus rapid transit line. That is, any official park-and-ride spots.

The Rosedale mall in Roseville has nearly 5,800 parking spaces. It’s going to be served by the A Line that’ll run down Snelling to the soccer stadium. Of course, the property manager of Rosedale could get crabby enough about extra cars parked on game days to steer a little business to an enterprising towing company.

For many soccer fans, if parking really is going to be kept scarce over by the soccer stadium, the most likely outcome is not to stop using their cars. They will be driving, just not the last few miles.

It’ll take longer than simply driving all the way there, but fans will park their cars near a transit line and hop on. Among transit officials, this practice is called a hide-and-ride.

That has led to street parking restrictions around light-rail stations already, but those restrictions just cause the frugal fan to park deeper in nearby neighborhoods. Figuring out where the good parking spots are will likely take fans a little time.

Not sure how hide-and-rides help meet the goals of transit advocates.

As it turns out, I know of a handful of great street parking spots a half-minute walk from a station on the Green Line. No, I won’t give up their location.

There needs to be a spot for my car once the soccer team starts playing in St. Paul.

lee.schafer@startribune.com • 612-673-4302