Parking in Cambridge, MA
August 1, 2006 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Help me avoid parking woes in Cambridge, MA!

We're moving to Cambridge for 10 months. The place where we'll be living in Central Square does have parking attached, but it costs (gulp) $210/month. Considering how much we're already paying in rent, I'm not eager to shell out that much. I'm looking for a monthly parking garage that is more affordable than that. I've only found about three private garages listed online, but there have to be many others. Looking for locals who might know of garages.

Note: I know many of you are going to say "DON'T TAKE A CAR." But I'm taking my car. We'll be there for only 10 months, and I do not want to sell my car. Although I won't be driving it much during the week, I want to have access to it for weekend road trips. I think we'll do many of those.

Also, I know I can park my car on the street, but I'm not sure I want to deal with that hassle, either, especially when the snow rules kick in.

Thanks for any recommendations!
posted by lilybeane to Travel & Transportation around Cambridge, MA (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try craigslist to see if anyone near where you'll be living is leasing out their spot.
posted by justkevin at 8:33 AM on August 1, 2006

FYI In either case you will want to get a resident permit from city hall. That will allow you to park on any street.
posted by Gungho at 8:43 AM on August 1, 2006

Also, I know I can park my car on the street, but I'm not sure I want to deal with that hassle, either, especially when the snow rules kick in.

I'm not sure you'll have much choice, if you don't want to pay for parking. Here's hoping you can find someone to lease from for cheap!
posted by canine epigram at 8:44 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

To park on the street, you'll want a residential parking sticker, which means switching place of residence (plus registration for car/insurance/etc. if you're moving from out of state). It's a toss-up whether this is too much of a hassle.

On the one hand, parking on the street is not so bad in Cambridge because of all the residency restrictions. Not only that, but your parking sticker is good city-wide (at least, I'm pretty sure -- can somebody confirm this? In the 6 years I lived in Cambridge, I never got a ticket for parking in a zone other than my own). That's good because you can do things like park near the Kendall cinema without paying for it, or go to the Cambridgside Galeria without paying for it, or park within walking distance of Harvard Sq. etc. Registration et. al would cost less than one month's parking space rent.

On the other hand, changing addresses and all that nonsense is a bother.

I'd probably go for street parking. The snow emergencies are rare (a couple times a winter at most), at which point you can pay to park in a garage, or make friends with the neighbors or some such.
posted by one_bean at 8:45 AM on August 1, 2006

You may not normally live in a dense city environment. You're getting a fantastic deal with a mere $210/month. Monthly commercial parking in your area is likely to be over $400/month.

Consider the size of a parking spot vs. the size of your apartment. If you didn't park your car there, someone could be living in that parking spot.
posted by jellicle at 8:49 AM on August 1, 2006

Jellicle's right about the value.

I would also say, as someone who had a car for a brief while in Harvard Square that I only used on the weekends, that I probably paid about $200 every few months because my car had been towed away or heavily ticketed. So if you're really not using the car more than once every few days, or you're not seriously committed to moving it around even if you're not using it (you can't keep it in the same parking space for more than 48 hours), then factor in tickets/towing to your "free" street parking.

Especially if you have out-of-state plates.

(So basically, yes, I'm agreeing that you need a dedicated parking space!)
posted by occhiblu at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2006

Having dealt with on-street parking in Portland, OR, which has none of the issues that Cambridge has ... I say suck it up and pay for the space.
posted by SpecialK at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2006

Jellicle's right about the value

posted by ericb at 9:02 AM on August 1, 2006

I don't think $210 is a tremendous value. I live in Chicago in an area where parking is *ridiculously* bad, and I have never paid more than $150 for a dedicated parking space. (Of course, my Boston rent is turning out to be way higher than my Chicago rent, for much less space, so why should the parking cost discrepancy be any different?)

Anyway, value is subjective. But occhiblu just reminded me of my propensity to forget where I parked my car and when--especially now that I'm used to parking my car in a spot and leaving it for however long I want. Tickets and towings would be expensive, with the added expense of me getting seriously pissed off every time it happens.

Thanks for the input. I just found a $160 garage, and it's currently in the lead. Will check craigslist closer to moving time.
posted by lilybeane at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2006

I parked daily in Harvard Sq for two years. You can do it, with a residency sticker and positive attitude. But as said upthread, you'll need to get MA plates/reg/insurance immediately to get the sticker. The few days until you do that will be a huge hassle.
posted by sohcahtoa at 9:18 AM on August 1, 2006

Of course, my Boston rent is turning out to be way higher than my Chicago rent, for much less space, so why should the parking cost discrepancy be any different?

Well, exactly. Cost of living in general is probably going to be a bit higher, from rent to groceries to parking to almost everything else. (Though I keep hearing the Boston area's getting better than it was when I was there.)

Glad you've found something, though!
posted by occhiblu at 9:47 AM on August 1, 2006

I'd probably go for street parking. The snow emergencies are rare (a couple times a winter at most), at which point you can pay to park in a garage, or make friends with the neighbors or some such.

Seconding street parking. It's really not that complicated, and having that sticker makes it way easier on the occasions you might want to drive somewhere in town. You can just park the car and not worry about it.

Incidentally, there are a number of garages and public pay lots that become free during snow emergencies. So all you have to do is move your car, you don't even have to pay (in Central, I believe it's the Green St. Garage that becomes free). And, of course, snow emergencies don't apply to all streets, so in many cases you can just remain parked wherever you are.

The tricky part is actually street cleaning in the summer months. That's when you're likely to get ticketed or towed, but again, it's not all that hard to remember that, when you take out the trash on Monday you also have to move the car to the other side of the street. Plus they drive around announcing street cleaning at high volume all morning on the days when you're at risk of getting towed.
posted by dseaton at 10:25 AM on August 1, 2006

With street parking, do you really have to move your car every 48 hours and get Mass plates?
posted by lilybeane at 10:51 AM on August 1, 2006

You need Mass plates to get a residential sticker. You CAN park on the street without a sticker, in some places, but usually not for long. The "move every 48 hours" thing is enforced aggressively some places and not in others. If you really think you're only going to be a sometimes driver, you may want to park your car way out at the end of the red line or green line (how much is Alewife monthly?)
posted by jessamyn at 11:02 AM on August 1, 2006

Consider leaving your car somewhere cheap and far, far away from Cambridge. Then use the money you save doing that to use a car sharing service such as Zipcar. It's really a great service and comes highly recommended by my Cambridge-dwelling friend.
posted by polyhedron at 11:02 AM on August 1, 2006

Or, consider leaving your car far away, but not far, far away. From Central, you can take the red line to a lot of communities that probably have cheaper parking. When you head out for the weekend, you'd have to take the T to the car, but that wouldn't be so bad.
posted by daisyace at 11:13 AM on August 1, 2006

I decided I should pimp Zipcar a little more. Zipcar will probably cost you less per month than it would to keep your car insured, let alone parked, fueled, and running. You get the convenience of choosing what type of car you want or need (they have Minis, BMWs, Priuses, pick-ups, and more). Insurance and fuel are included in the cost of Zipcar. Parking is no longer a huge hassle. Really, it's worth it, and I hope you consider it.

Of course, I have no idea how much it'd cost to store your car somewhere (a storage unit would be nice). A 10'x15' unit where I live is $70-80/month, which combined with Zipcar would probably come to just over half of the cost of your parking space and insurance. There may even be dedicated long-term car storage services that are cheaper, but I don't know about them.
posted by polyhedron at 11:18 AM on August 1, 2006

(posting as klang's girlfriend, who lived in cambridge between central and harvard squares w/ a car and out-of-state plates for 10 months):

the only way to get a residential permit is to get MA plates and a MA driver's license. trust me, i tried for a month to get around this, talked to every person in the cambridge government, and there is nothing you can do unless you are well-connected politically or a celebrity.

yes, you do need to move your car every 48 hours when you have a residential permit. they walk down every single street and chalk the tires, every day, especially near central/harvard because of all the students living there. it's a very tight system and you cannot even park for a day without being caught (especially if you have out-of-state plates, which are like a beacon to the ticket-givers).

i ended up using a private garage to park in, near kendall square t stop (can't remember the name, sorry). while looking for a place, i found that many private garages have two pricing levels: "storage" and "daily." both allow you to enter & leave the garage as often as you want, leave the car for days inside the structure, and park overnight. they expect that "daily" parkers are work commuters and so charge them less (they rarely stay overnight or are there on weekends). "daily" passes are about $50 cheaper per month than "storage" passes, and not all garages check to see if you're really using the permit as a storage or daily permit. storage permits do get you more well-protected spots in the garage, so maybe the extra $ is worth it to you. but if you're tellling the garage, "I will use my car a few times a month," they're probably quoting you storage prices, and better rates can be had, if you are able to square the slight-untruth with your conscience (i couldn't).
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2006

Zipcar probably wouldn't be all that economical for daytrips outside the city, though. But I love the car-sharing services for running errands and such.

For moving every 48 hours, I was in a residential area between Harvard and Central, and the tickets for that KILLED me when I had out-of-state plates (and a visitor pass, rather than a resident permit). They seemed to notice much less when I switched to Massachussetts plates, because I got fewer tickets (though still some). They'll often come and chalk the street under the tires of cars they suspect have been there too long, then if the chalk line is still there the next day, issue the ticket.
posted by occhiblu at 11:34 AM on August 1, 2006

I parked my car with Illinois plates on street in the summer of 2003 with only a guest pass - available without changing your registration - for about a month and a half. I had to move it frequently which was a pain, but it was never ticketed and I was always able to find a spot within a few blocks. (Like Klanklangston and occhiblu I was between Central and Harvard.)
posted by Xalf at 12:12 PM on August 1, 2006

Hmm.... polyhedron, I don't know whether you work for Zipcar, but if you don't, you should. I'm intrigued.
posted by lilybeane at 12:48 PM on August 1, 2006

I don't know of a garage, but maybe this helps as a point of reference:
I currently pay $4/day ($80/month) in North Cambridge to park 7am-6pm M-F in a church lot while I work.
I also parked on the street for 4 years when I lived in North Cambridge and never had much trouble. I only got towed once when I completely forgot about street cleaning.
posted by jdl at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2006

I live in Somerville near Porter Square, 2 subway stops from Central. I pay 75$ a month in an offstreet lot owned by my landlord. The same space rents to non-tenants for 150$. If you don't change your registration to MA, you're stuck renting a space offstreet if you want convenient access to your car. Central is a good location for living off of public transportation. If you don't want to sell your car, could you leave it behind with family?
posted by enfa at 8:09 PM on August 6, 2006

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