ST. PAUL -- When Joel Tracy is steaming pants he's talking about how steamed he is about something on the drawing board at Metro Transit he believes will jeopardize his family business in St. Paul.
"This is one of the best corners in St. Paul, Grand and Snelling. It's a wonderful corner and we've been here a long time," Tracy, the owner of Stoltz Cleaners and Shirt Launderers, told KARE Thursday. "I raised my family on this corner and I don't want to leave it. I like it here!"
The Met Council is proposing a Bus Rapid Transit stop at the southeast corner of Snelling and Grand Avenues. It would replace the current Metro Transit bus shelter at the same intersection, and serve the proposed Bus Rapid Transit Line A.
But one of the proposed designs would close off the driveway that Tracy's customers use to access his parking lot from Snelling. He acknowledges there are still two entry points from Grand Avenue, but worries about customers not being able to put up with the extra maneuvers.
"We did a count and found 36 percent of our customers enter from the Snelling side, and now those people will have to drive around the corner and cross two pedestrian crosswalks," Tracy explained.
Stoltz Cleaners has been there for 97 years, and Tracy has worked there since 1979 when his parents bought the business. All six of his children have worked there at one time or another.
"People don't know it, but dry cleaners are a very narrow profit margin. And if we lose a couple of percentages of people we're done; the doors close."
The other option Metro Transit considered is on the northeast corner of the intersection, but that would take out eight short-term parking spots used by Macalester College and several businesses that rent space from Macalester.
Breadsmith Artisan Bakery and Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books are among the Macalester tenants that benefit from those 15-minute parking spots.
"We've invested $30 million in buildings, street improvements and added parking in this area and really reshaped this intersection into something that's much more pedestrian friendly and retail friendly," Tom Wellna, who heads the High Winds Fund, Macalester's land development wing, told KARE.
"What we've been advocating for is leaving the bus stop where it is."
Macalester helped pay for the long-term municipal parking in the middle of the block on the north side of Grand Avenue, but Wellna maintains those short-term sports along Snelling are very important for older shoppers who may have trouble walking long distances.
"We're trying to serve the greatest good for the greatest number of people and minimize the negative impacts," Wellna said, explaining why Macalester is pressing the Met Council to stick with the plan that keeps the transit station on the Stoltz Cleaners side of the street.
"We have no problem with Stoltz, I'm a longtime customer, as are many members of the Macalester community," Wellna said.
"Stoltz is a long-time family business that has a loyal following, and I don't think their customers are going to leave."
On Thursday afternoon Metro Transit staff members continued to discuss the issue with Joel Tracy, hoping to forge a compromise that would allow part of his driveway to remain open and still squeeze in the transit stop. The entire opening on the Snelling side of the business is 53 feet wide, so there is some flexibility.
The arterial bus rapid transit is described by some as "light rail on rubber" because BRT buses make fewer stops. Plans are to get the A Line, which will run the Minnehaha Falls area in Minneapolis to Roseville, up and running by the end of 2015.