Perilous Portland Parking Predicament: Price & Position?
October 19, 2020 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I've recently committed to getting a car, but don't have anywhere to put it. I live in the limbo that is Portland, Oregon's dreaded Zone N, the result of which is that I am apparently not eligible for any street permit parking. Worse still, all the lot/garage options I've been able to find even semi-nearby are upwards of $75–150 a month. This… isn't workable. How/where do people who live in inner SE park affordably?

Some details: I am recently single, presently carless, and am losing my mind from not having access to any sort of actual, therapeutic natural experience save for every few weeks when I am able to rent a car through Turo. This is definitely going to get worse as it gets colder and grayer—you could white balance a camera from how gray inner Buckman gets in December. I'm not really in a good frame of mind nor do I have the free time from work to move, so that's not an option, unfortunately.

I'd recently abandoned a plan to take a trip to Hawaii, both out of the obvious COVID-related safety concerns and the feeling that I'll need more than a week of nature to get me through this winter, physically and metaphorically. I know cars are a bad investment, but this felt like the better long-term option, for this and a few work reasons in the near future.
posted by caliche to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (6 answers total)
I would try to rent drive way space from someone. That being said, $75 a month doesn’t seem that wild too me. If it breaks the bank, it seems like making concrete and easy plans to rent a car for the weekend every single weekend would be cheaper.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:39 PM on October 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

There are a few options. Do you have any friends who live a bit further out who have either driveway space or who can keep half an eye on your car if you keep it parked on the street in their neighborhood? We're generally not supposed to have cars parked in any spot on the street for extended periods, but most folks don't care as long as the car is moved somewhat regularly. This isn't great if you want to use it everyday, but it's fine for once a week or so, especially if you combine it with a bike ride.

Looking for folks on NextDoor seems like a good approach, too.

I suppose you could check in at a few nearby businesses with parking lots and ask if they'll rent you a spot? It might be that some retail places or restaurants are less busy right now and would be willing to rent a spot for extra income but for less than what you've found.

In the bigger picture: what do you imagine doing with a car if you have it more often? You've said you're renting a car every few weeks. Are you wanting to get out of town every weekend? During the week? Here are a few tips for getting some more nature in your life right now, and including things that might not need a car:

Have you spent much time in Forest Park? Yes, it'll be as dreary in the skies as in your neighborhood, but spending time in this patch of woods can be incredibly invigorating and rejuvenating for me. It tends to be less busy on drizzly days, too, which can be nice.

If you have a bike, you might make a point of using it to explore all of Portland's parks on weekend days. Mocks Crest Park (Skidmore Bluffs) has a great view of downtown. There are some lovely parks with big trees in North Portland.

Are you using public transportation right now? The Columbia Gorge Express goes from Portland out to Multnomah Falls and a few points east. It leaves from Gateway Transit Center. They are taking reservations, which is how I'm guessing they are limiting the number of folks on the bus. Anyway, you can go out at 9am and come back at the end of the day.

If you want to do a few overnights at the coast, you can take the Point bus on a Friday evening out to the coast and come back Sunday morning.

If you really need some sun and since you cancelled your Hawaii vacation, would it be an option to rent an AirBnB someplace east of the Cascades for a week or two over the winter and work from there? You could even rent someplace in town in Bend and then just rent a car each way instead of for the whole time.

Also, this is a bit further afield from your question, but I saw that rental prices have dropped quite a bit in Portland since last year (I can't find the link but I think it was in the online Oregonian and was a drop of something like 5.8%). You could try re-negotiating your lease with your landlord and see if you can save a few dollars, and then apply that savings to a parking spot.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:41 PM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

How inner into "inner Buckman" are we talking? Because I'd say just find street parking east of 12th (the low teens have tons of residential street parking) and walk home if you're able. As you get to know the neighborhood, you'll figure out the best spots.

Alternately, I agree that renting a car for excursions might be less stressful than buying a car and worrying about parking, especially during the winter when a 10-block walk from the car won't be so fun. Were I in your position, I might just set aside some funds each month to pay for a rental car and put an outing on the calendar.
posted by adastra at 3:35 PM on October 19, 2020

Response by poster: I appreciate the thoughts and thoroughness of these answers, and realize I was pretty glib with my post, but this is a health issue for me. Believe me, if there was a way for me not to buy a car here, I would be so down with that. There just isn't. I've been carless for a decade, and have really hit a wall with every alternative, hard.
posted by caliche at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2020

Your question is “how do people in (zone N) park affordably?”

The answer, unfortunately, is they don’t. I had to pay for a parking lot. It was expensive. There is no solution that is affordable.

You’ve said that $75 parking fee is unworkable. If that is truly the case, I don’t think you should consider car ownership. Cars are tremendously expensive, and used cars are VASTLY most expensive to own than new ones. And you’re in SE - so assume you’ll get a window or two broken at least once, the catalytic converter has a decent chance of getting stolen, and you’ll get untold random scratches in the paint. If you’re lucky like me - I actually had my car projectile diarrhea’d on. Hit the entire drivers side.

I’m sorry this is a health issue. And I understand. But I think you should be very realistic about car ownership costs. Especially in inner SE if you have no place to park it. As you say, you’ve been carless for a decade, and it can be hard to know just how fucking expensive these things are.
posted by weed donkey at 10:28 PM on October 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

One last thought: my partner was saved by the Dollar Car Rental on W Burnside and Broadway. You can walk there from inner SE or take the 20 or whatever. In winter they rent out nice Subaru’s for $30 a day - I think unlimited mileage. We used to rent from there all the time.

In fact, I just checked, and they still list cars for $28 a day with unlimited miles. The manager and people who work there are chill too. We would just “show up” and rent whatever they had, sometimes we’d get a nice fucking SUV for the same price as an econobox.

If you can manage only getting away 3-4 days a month, renting a car would be the best option.
posted by weed donkey at 10:41 PM on October 19, 2020

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