Starbucks drive-thru in St. Paul creates traffic woes

- The City of St. Paul says it's testing new methods of traffic control after months of tie-ups outside a Starbucks at the intersection of Snelling and Marshall Avenues. 

Neighbors fed up with the traffic troubles are using the hashtag #carbucks on social media, posting pictures and videos of cars making improper turns and even illegally using an adjacent bike lane to access the parking lot. They blame the design of the drive-thru at the Starbucks for most of the issues.

“Really it’s been driver and car management,” said Kara Lynum, an attorney who lives in the neighborhood. “They built a drive-thru in there and they’ve had a hard time with people queueing up, blocking the bike lanes, blocking traffic."

Lynum’s videos on Twitter chronicling the situation now have thousands of views, sparking a conversation in the neighborhood about how to deal with the growing number of issues.

“From what I saw, people were doing illegal U-turns, they’re driving into oncoming traffic just to get coffee--which is crazy,” she said. “They added more [plastic barriers] to keep people from driving off the edge of it and then they added police officers, it turned into this circus.”

The Union Park District Council first raised concerns about the plans for the new Starbucks in 2015, citing the potential for traffic tie-ups. The city then forced Starbucks to revise its site plan, but the issues remain.

Public Works employees are now working with Starbucks to conduct tests on the site as part of an “ongoing conversation” with the company. The first involved closing off the exit onto Marshall Avenue, which has since been re-opened.

The second, currently ongoing test involves the temporary installation of bollards, or flexible barriers, to prevent left turns onto Marshall from the Starbucks. The city also plans to install seasonal delineators on the bike lanes as soon as the weather permits.

Lynum believes the only solution is to revoke the conditional use permit that allows for the drive-thru. 

“The other location that was just a block away did not have a drive-thru, so clearly we can have a Starbucks in the neighborhood that doesn’t have a drive-thru, doesn’t have all these safety issues, bicycle safety, driver safety or pedestrian safety,” she said.

Requests for comment from the Starbucks Coffee Company had not been returned as of Tuesday afternoon.

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