Parking in Boston
April 25, 2011 5:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently apartment-hunting in Boston, and have a question about how street-parking works (specifically, in the winter).

Even though I plan to use the T a lot, I do have a car and need to have a place to put it. A lot of places only have street parking (sometimes with resident permit). How does this work in the winter when there is a heavy snowstorm? My family tells me that every winter they see news clips of people having their cars towed b/c you can't park on the street during a snow emergency. While it makes sense to me that the plows need room, I can't see how an entire city just stops parking on the street.
so, is renting a place with street parking a total pain in the ass, or not that big a deal?
posted by maryrussell to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Usually parking is only prohibited on one side of the street during a snow emergency, either the even or the odd. I think that detail varies by city. Declared snow emergencies should give you X amount of time before the snow hits to grab your car and move it to a lot, usually school lots or municipal parking, or find a spot on the not-forbidden side (in Somerville, for example, it's the odd side) for the duration of the snow emergency.

Be sure to shovel your car out after because cars still buried in snow 48 hours after a storm are easy pickings for the city to ticket.
posted by lydhre at 5:25 AM on April 25, 2011

From here:
During declared snow emergencies, parking is prohibited on major arteries and discounted parking is available at several parking lots and garages to cars with Boston resident parking stickers.
Snow emergency routes and alternate parking by neighborhood.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:32 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Watch out for snow emergency route signs, those are streets where parked cars will be towed during snowstorms. If you are in a residential parking area, your car must be dug out within 24 hours (this is a big one, cars are often towed if they aren't cleared off.) City regulations are here.

Side note: In Southie and parts of Dorchester it is common for people to hold spots taht they cleared with trash cans, lawn chairs, etc. Every year there is a fight at City Hall over this, sometimes the mayor will send out a dump truck to clear these obstacles, usually not. If you see a spot like this, do not take it. Nothing good will happen.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:34 AM on April 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Will you be living in Boston proper, or in one of the surrounding towns (Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, etc). The rules vary from town to town.

In general, on-street parking is possible but something of a pain in winter. Most people do not rent indoor parking spaces. Of course, if you can afford it that would simplify your life in winter considerably.
posted by alms at 5:44 AM on April 25, 2011

Depends on the street, the neighborhood, and the winter - I know Somerville better than Boston, but I parked on the street in Somerville for four years and found it a pain but not too bad. That was on a medium-sized street where I could usually, but not always, park right in front of my house in the summer, and none of those winters was nearly as snowy as this past winter. Over 4 winters, I paid one $100 ticket for parking too close to a corner in a snowstorm, parked several blocks away from home once or twice, and paid to park in the MBTA garage at Alewife a couple of times when I was coming home late and it was snowing overnight. Narrow little streets or neighborhoods where a lot of people are competing for the parking would be more of a pain - I know narrow streets in some towns had one-side parking restrictions for longer this past winter because there just wasn't room for emergency vehicles even after they plowed.
posted by songs about trains at 5:59 AM on April 25, 2011

I lived in Brighton Center.... not many issues with finding somewhere to park. there were driveways and since a lot of people don't have cars, the ones that did parked in the driveway. As everyone else mentioned, when its a snow emergency or street sweeping day, you have to park on the other side. With snow emergencies, you also can't park a certain amount of distance near intersections.

I also lived in somerville which seemed more strict with parking tickets and needing permits for residents and guests. The neighborhood I was in (between harvard square and Union square), finding parking wasn't an.issue.

Ihave friends that lived in areas where parking was a nightmare. I suggest driving around neighborhoods you're interested in after 9pm to get a good idea of what you'd be dealing with.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:34 AM on April 25, 2011

I lived in Brighton for a couple years also, but closer to Mass Ave. and parking in general was a nightmare. I regularly parked at least a quarter mile away from my apartment due to lack of parking, and this was in the summer! In winter it gets worse. Roads that must be empty of cars during snow emergencies are marked, and they'll tow you if you park there. Other roads are either one-side parking or no change to parking rules at all. However, if your car is on the road, the plows will bury you. Buy a shovel and keep it handy - probably not in your trunk, unfortunately, because you won't be able to get to your trunk to shovel yourself out.

Cambridge is a little easier (at least where we live now) - same rules about emergency routes, but all other side-roads have no change to parking rules during snow. They opened the city parking lots for free towards the end of the winter this year.

All in all, it's not terribly bad. People started getting really snippy at the end of this winter due to the huge amount of snow we got, but this is the only year I've ever had a confrontation over "taking someone's spot". I have tried to maintain a policy of digging myself out plus one extra space when it snows.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:49 AM on April 25, 2011

Afaik, people mark parking spots with chairs/trashcans/etc anywhere there's contention over street parking. Certainly it happens over in my part of Somerville. (Amusingly, at least in Boston, one of the responses to City Hall threatening to send a truck around to pick up these objects was people marking spots with things that the trash folks normally won't take or charge to take away, eg appliances, toilets, etc.)

Somerville, in particular, had an incident a couple of years ago where the snow-limited streets prevented a fire truck from getting to an emergency scene in a timely fashion. Since then, the city has been a lot more uptight about people parking too close to corners etc during snow season. This was one of the snowiest winters in years, and a few times during the worst of it, they banned parking on a section of street so they could send in bobcats and plows and get the cleared part of the street widened.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:38 AM on April 25, 2011

Fyi, if you rent a place with only street parking and that proves to be too onerous/annoying, many people rent parking spaces to make extra cash. It's not cheap, but might be an option if you have the extra money and want the peace of mind.
posted by AthenaPolias at 9:38 AM on April 25, 2011

I have a friend who lives in Southie who complained endlessly about the parking this winter. Every time there was a storm, she would circle the blocks for hours looking for a place to park, and apparently the "discount parking" during a snowstorm was an inconvenient joke.

Lesson learned: winter sucks if you own a car in Southie.
posted by fremen at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2011

Whereever you live in the area, register for any city "alert" messages that are delivered via e-mail and phone. This will not only let you know when the city has decided that there will be a snow emergency, and when it will start and end, but also keep you informed of other things that affect your area, like when street cleaning schedules start and end (another thing that can cause your car to get ticketed or towed), road maintenance, problems with the water supply, police alerts for missing people, areas suffering high burglary rates or dangerous people on the loose, etc.

Living in Somerville I get all this information via e-mail and phone and have never been caught out by a snow emergency since. I have the best chance of finding a parking spot near my house before others take it prior to the snow falling, and know when to dig my car out at the end of a snow emergency if I want to move it and park it legally on the even-numbered side of the street. I've seen people getting tickets after the storm and all the ploughing is over because they moved their cars half an hour before the official end of the snow emergency ...
posted by galaksit at 9:20 PM on April 25, 2011

Thanks everyone for the local wisdom! I will keep a parking spot high on my wish list; sounds like a convenience that will be worth the $ to me.
posted by maryrussell at 8:53 AM on April 26, 2011

Consider getting rid of your car an signing up for Zipcar. If you don't have to drive to work, you can potentially save money and reduce your parking hassles. Although admittedly, the service, while great, is not perfect. I live in JP and parking in the winter can be tough sometimes. At least around here some people have driveways, which decompresses the street somewhat. Not sure of the situation in the South End, Back Bay, or Beacon Hill. What neighborhoods are you looking at? Back when I used to own a car, it wasn't too bug a hassle. But I think I was in a lucky neighborhood in the South End.
posted by reddot at 7:45 PM on April 26, 2011

fremen: "I have a friend who lives in Southie who complained endlessly about the parking this winter. Every time there was a storm, she would circle the blocks for hours looking for a place to park, and apparently the "discount parking" during a snowstorm was an inconvenient joke. "

I live in Southie and I had few problems this winter. Keep a careful eye on the local customs for winter street parking in your neighborhood. In Southie, if you dig out a spot, you're typically allowed to drop a "space saver" in your spot when you leave. From what I understand, this is only allowed in theory for 48 hours after a storm, but in practice it seems to stick a little longer than that. I know some people who recently moved to Southie and refuse to do the space saver thing. It's no coincidence those are the same people who complain the most about parking.

But those kinds of things vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Like I said, keep your eyes peeled.
posted by Plutor at 7:39 AM on April 29, 2011

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