Short Term: Use Technology to Help You
If you're headed into a city for a special event, you may have the parking situation well in hand. Staying at a hotel? Ask the hotel if they have parking. Going in for a concert or a major event? The website for the event or venue probably has parking tips. Those things are useful, and you should definitely check before you leave, but if you're already on the way or headed to a place that's not likely to have parking, you need more options:
- ParkoPedia is your best friend if you haven't left yet. Even if your event has parking nearby, Parkopedia can show you lots or garages that are closer, and if you're visiting friends or going to a market or concert, you can see all of the nearby paid lots in the vicinity of your friend's place on a top-down Google Map. There are mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and there's even a price calculator to help you estimate how much you'll pay in a given lot for the time you need to be in town.
- Parkmobile partners with cities large and small around the country (you can see a full map with locations here) to manage electronic payment for parking. If it's available to you, it's the best thing in the world for finding city parking. Load the iOS or Android app on your phone, and then find a parking space, garage, or lot. Once you park there, you'll see a code you can enter into the app to start a parking session. Type in the code, select how long you'd like to park, and start your session. Your credit card will automatically be billed, your car will be legally parked, and you can walk away—if your session ends, just open the app and extend it or start a new session. No running out to feed the meter, no moving your car every few hours to beat a time limit. Best of all, the app will guide you back to where you parked if you forgot, or help you find supported lots and open spaces if you're on the hunt.
- Parker is another parking service that also works with cities and municipalities to make paying for parking and finding legal spaces easier on drivers. You'll definitely need the mobile apps to make this service work (available for iOS and Android) but once you have them, a quick search using your destination address or your current GPS location will turn up meters, lots, and garages near you, along with how much they cost. The service even differentiates between ADA compliant parking spaces, EV charging stations, and other speciifc types of parking. Once you find a spot, you can pay with your phone and make a note of where you parked so you can get back easily or renew your parking session if you'll be longer than expected.
- Robin is a great parking assistant for Android users, and it's hands-free so you can use it in the car while you're driving around looking for a place to park. Just get Robin's attention by tapping the screen or waving your hand on front of it, and then ask for parking in your area. The app will show you available locations, and you can navigate to any one of them. Robin generally supports garages, paid lots, and centralized street parking, and will even tell you how many spots are available if the information is available. If you're looking for the cheapest available parking, just ask Robin to show you something cheaper, and the app will display more affordable alternatives.
Long Term: Research is Key
If you'll be parking for longer than a few hours—as in you'll be visiting for a few days or you're moving downtown but don't want to give up your car—you'll need some long-term options. Feeding a meter every single day doesn't sound like fun. Even so, fewer and fewer communities in cities offer garages or parking spaces to their residents, and fewer and fewer cities are letting new residents park on the streets in their neighborhoods. Here are some ways to get around that crunch:
- Parkopedia is useful here as well. It's great for short-term parking, but the service also displays lots that have daily, monthly, or yearly permit options, again on a top-down Google Map. Search for your future home or your new office, and then look around the area. Odds are there's a garage or a parking deck nearby that you can get a permit to park in. It may cost you a pretty penny (if you're parking for work, you should check with your company about being reimbursed for that) but you'll have options. Since they're mostly garages and company-owned lots, expect to pay more for spaces there—but at least you'll have reliable parking.
- BestParking is another service that collects and organizes available parking spaces in an area on a Google Map. If your parking needs take you near an Airport, or if Parkopedia doesn't have options for you, it's worth a look.
- ParkingSpotter, a service we've mentioned before, has a track record for being on-again-off-again in terms of the reliability of its listings, but the service does have the benefit of hosting Craiglist and independent parking space listings as well as commercial lots. That means that if someone in a nearby building is leasing a garage space in their building and has posted it to Craigslist, ParkingSpotter will show it to you so you can get in touch with the owner. Your mileage may vary though—like we mentioned, some cities and some listings are old and out of date, while others are bustling and active.
- Craigslist is another great way to find long-term spaces, garage spaces, or even people looking to make a little money by filling up the garage next to their home. Independent owners or people who are leasing apartments with parking to tenants without a car all use Craigslist to try and make a little extra money on their unused parking spaces—and they know that people in the community will bite, especially if parking is limited anyway. Don't overlook Craigslist as an option, especially to find the cheapest available parking. Often individual owners will lease below garage prices just to get people into their spots.
- Get familiar with your local neighborhood parking cartels. Odds are there are maybe two or three companies that handle the vast majority of lot, garage, and street parking in your city. In some cases, one of those companies may be an absolute juggernaut. If that's the case, call them up directly and let them know where you're interested in parking. They may have their own application process to get you into a space near your home, and even if they don't have spaces there, they may be able to offer you something else. Similarly, don't forget the little guys—smaller companies that only have one or two lots may be thrilled to squeeze you into one of their garages if it means you'll be a monthly paying customer.
- If there's nothing in your building or on your block, ask other buildings instead. When I moved into the city, only to find there were no resident spaces in the garage under my building, our property manager gave me the number of a friend of his who was the property manager for another condo building about a block away. He explained that her building wasn't full yet and had plenty of units—and spaces in her garage—for sale. He explained that until her building was full, she'd be happy to rent out a space in the garage to me, or even let me park there for free until someone needed it. Be careful with this option though; while garages have set costs, renting spaces from individuals can cost more because you're paying for the convenience of parking near your home. Don't hesitate to ask around, shop around, and try to make a connection with a neighbor in another building.
- Check with your local housing/parking/motor vehicle authority. In my community, people living in condos and apartment buildings don't qualify for residential parking rights—the people who own and rent townhomes a block away do, though. You may be able to arrange a swap with someone further down the block who doesn't need their parking tag or sticker, or you may be able to swing something if you call your local department of motor vehicles or your nearby parking authority and ask. Similarly, you can ask what it would take to be able to legally park if for some reason your home isn't zoned for it. In my building, for example, a few residents got together and organized a petition to get our block zoned for residential parking, and they're pulling out all the stops to get local government to listen to them. You may need to do the same, especially if you'd rather not pay to park in the same place you live.
Also, remember that sometimes reliable, safe, and secure parking is better than closer, more convenient parking. I eventually wound up paying for a spot in a lot about two blocks away over the garage below my building just because I could get a solid monthly contract for the lot, as opposed to renting a space in the garage under my building and worrying every month whether they would email me needing their space back. It's less convenient, but it's cheaper, and at least I always know there's a place for my car.
Or, Don't Park at All
Even though up to this point we've talked about how to find great parking options in a city, remember that sometimes the best parking options are no parking options. Many communities are going out of their way to discourage people from moving downtown and bringing their cars with them, and instead are encouraging people to take mass transit, use bikeshare programs, or use car-share programs with communal parking spaces if you need them. If those programs are convenient for you to get around town, then you may be better off just ditching your car and using them instead.
Similarly, you may consider renting a long-term space in a lot or garage far from your home but accessible via transit, and leaving your car on the outskirts of town, somewhere safe but accessible on the rare occasions you do need a car. That way you can take the train to your car when you need it, but you don't have to pay ridiculous parking fees to have it downtown close to your home. The same rule applies if you're headed into a city for a short term event, like a concert or a night on the town. You may be better off parking for free at a transit station and taking the train downtown, or driving close enough to park easily and then grabbing a taxi or an Uber or Hailo driver instead to get you around town, and then back to your car when the night winds down.
In any event, parking in the city doesn't have to be a nightmare. It's almost never easy, but with these tools hopefully it'll be a little easier, and finding a safe, secure, and affordable place for your vehicle won't take up more time or money than it's really worth.
Original Article: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-find-parking-in-the-city-when-you-need-it-513771516
Author: Alan Henry