The battle for Boston’s parking spaces

Here’s how to navigate the battle for Boston’s coveted parking spaces.

PARK BOSTON: This app allows you to pay for your parking meter online. Great when you don’t have any quarters.
PARK BOSTON: This app allows you to pay for your parking meter online. Great when you don’t have any quarters.
George Kennedy

It doesn’t matter if you are a resident of Boston, commute to work downtown, or are coming in for a Sox game—parking in Boston can be a real chore. This is only made worse by the occasional snow bank or roving construction crews that take up countless spaces for weeks at a time.

With plenty of new office buildings rising across the city’s skyline and companies like G.E. moving their headquarters here, parking in Boston may soon become a blood sport. Knowing where the open spaces are and how not to get hosed on parking fees is prized knowledge for many. Here’s how to navigate the battle for Boston’s coveted parking spaces.

The Basics: It’s important to know the basics: parking meters in town charge $1.25 per hour or 25 cents for 12 minutes, with a two-hour maximum time limit at any given spot.

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But parking is only enforced 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, so if you are in town on a Saturday night and get in after 8, you don’t have to sweat getting up early to feed the meter.

The Parking App: After winding through streets in Back Bay, you’ve miraculously found a spot on Newbury Street, but you don’t have any change. Fret not, as the City of Boston now has a parking app. Simply download the Park Boston app on your smartphone, and create a profile, including your vehicle and credit card information.

Once that information is saved, you can pull into any metered spot, enter the zone number that is listed on the nearest meter, and enter the amount of time you’d like to stay, with a max of two hours, of course. There is even a helpful timer with pop-up alerts when time is getting low. Confirmation won’t show up on the meter at which you’re parked, but the parking enforcement officers have a live feed of Park Boston sessions.

Aside from the free parking times mentioned above, the notion of “free” and “parking” seldom add up in Boston. If you are parking for free for an extended period of time in a busy part of town, there’s a good chance you’re doing so illegally. When you find a spot that is open, it is always wise to look around until you’ve found signage absolutely confirming it is OK to park in that spot.

Gauging Garages: Many commuters simply don’t have the time to search for a spot every morning; running out to feed the meter and move the car is out of the question. That’s where garages come into play. Don’t get sucked into paying more for parking than you should, which is why there are a number of sites, including Boston.Bestparking.com and Parkopedia.com, which track the hourly, daily, and monthly rates at various parking garages. These sites may also have details on bargains for those in town for the night, such as the “in by 4 p.m., out by 4 a.m.” deals. It will even tell you if the garage takes only credit cards, or is cash-only (like the Dock Square Garage next to the Hard Rock Cafe).

Let Someone Else Drive: Parking at Boston Logan International Airport for any period of time my result in a draining sound coming from your wallet. To avoid this, Massport offers Logan Express bus lines that run from various Commuter Rail stations, including Braintree, Framingham, Peabody, and Woburn, and go straight to your terminal. Most of these transportation hubs run buses every half hour for most of the day. A one-way ticket is $12, round-trip is $22, and parking at the Anderson-Woburn station, for one, is just $4 a day, much better than the rates you’ll pay even at Logan’s economy lot.

Two Wheels Good: With spring finally upon us, many are dusting off commuter bikes. There’s no better way than taking a bicycle to work to stay in shape, get into town traffic-free, and reduce carbon emissions. Boston’s traffic laws are becoming more and more friendly towards cyclists, and more bike trails are being built every year. The Minuteman Commuter trail gets hefty traffic, and many new rail trails are being connected to it, making a grander network of usable bike trails.

But there are many of us who can’t commute via commuter rail, the T, or bicycle everyday. To avoid paying too much for parking, getting a ticket, or even getting towed, it requires a bit of patience and determination to get that spot. The more time you take to do your homework and shop around for the best parking, the better you’ll feel on your daily commute!