The Rear End

THE REAR END: It’s Time to Revamp the Ramp (Like a Champ)

some bright ideas to make parking in downtown ramps more attractive

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Eva Paulus |

Are you sick of parking downtown? Are you sick of talking about parking downtown? Are you sick of complaining about people complaining about parking downtown? Me too. Let’s fix it.

I know parking is a tough nut to crack in Eau Claire. There’re a lot of places to go downtown, and there’s only a finite amount of physical space in which to park. This is why some kind soul invented parking ramps. But sadly, too many people don’t even consider them an option.

Some problems are hard to overcome. Like how some people will complain about a lack of downtown parking, but they have a special hearing disorder, so when a second person mentions the existence of our two parking ramps, all they actually hear is zzzzzpptfffllllrrrrrrrrrrrr-hornk. Thousands of people suffer from this ailment in the city of Eau Claire alone.

I understand some people have mobility issues and need to park very close to their destination. And I know some people refuse to pay the outrageous 50 cents per hour to park in a covered ramp a few blocks away. But really, how hard can it be to fix all this?

Here are just a few new amenities we could add to make our downtown parking ramps more attractive. I literally thought these up in, like, two minutes and wrote them down without thinking. It’s that easy.

Themes for Each Level

You know what parking ramps really need? Ambience. What if each level of the ramp had its very own theme? Like, Level 1 could be cabin chic, and it’d look like the interior of a log cabin. Level 2 could be horses. Level 3? Under the Sea! with seashells and mermaids and lobsters. Level 4 could be The Roarin’ Twenties and Level 5 could be Lord of the Rings. People would come for the parking but stay for the whimsy.

For real, I could think of parking ramp themes all day.

Turbo Exits

Maybe people don’t like using parking ramps because they’re often confusing. Finding a spot is easy enough, but when you’re done shopping/working/drinking strawberry margaritas, and it’s time to leave, you’re faced with a concrete labyrinth filled with other cars and signs with arrows pointing every which way.

I mean, not me. I don’t get confused. I for sure have never tried to exit a parking ramp only to end up at the very top level. Twice.

Let’s alleviate all this exit stress with Turbo Exits (a phrase here which means “very large slides”). On every level of the parking ramp, just install a well-marked, car-sized slide right down to the street. This way, no one gets lost and everyone has fun.

Saturday Meat Raffles

Who doesn’t love a good meat raffle? No one. So what if, just by purchasing a few hours of parking on a Saturday, you were also purchasing a chance to win a choice cut of prime rib or a big pork butt? If it gets people into a sketchy tavern on a weeknight, surely it can get people into a parking spot on a weekend.

Who doesn’t love a good meat raffle? No one. So what if, just by purchasing a few hours of parking on a Saturday, you were also purchasing a chance to win a choice cut of prime rib or a big pork butt?


The parking ramps downtown have a new automated system that scans your license plate to keep track of your charges. I’m sure that same system could easily select the winner of a rack of baby back ribs. And the prize meat could be dispensed to lucky winners via a vending machine near the exit, or maybe the city manager could deliver it all once a month. Works either way.

A Nice Buffet of Snacks and Munchables

It seems like maybe the wizards down at City Hall could easily increase the cost of hourly ramp parking if they offered some nice snacks as you come and go. This way, more people would use the service at a higher price. WHAM. It’s a twofer. Mind you, I’m talking about a drive-thru buffet for people on the go. Just set out a few tables along the sides of the entrances and exits, and set out big bowls of Chex Mix and popcorn and protein bars and whatever. Easy-peasy chips-n-cheesy.

People can just slow down and reach out their window, like a marathon runner grabbing a cup of water, but they’re inside a Kia Sportage.

OK, I’m done giving out free ideas. Your move, City of Eau Claire.