One of the most common questions we get asked is "Where can I park in Boston?" Perhaps you've heard of the parking space in Back Bay that sold for $560,000? Depending on where you are relocating from, a car may be a vital part of your everyday life. In fact, most major cities require the use of a car to get around from point A to point B, but not Boston. Boston is unique in that we have a very dense population in a relatively small footprint. In fact, the entire city of Boston is only about 1/6th the size of NYC. Perhaps the first question you may want to ask yourself when it comes to bringing a car is "Do I even need a car?" Below we list out some of the options available to both car owners, and non car owners alike.
If you DON'T own a car
- MBTA - The MBTA is Boston's public transportation system. If you live and work in the city it will be one of the easiest ways for you to get around. It consists of a system of trains, subway cars, buses, and even water taxis. Generally speaking the subways run East to West in the downtown areas, and buses generally run North to South. For a small monthly fee you should be able to rely on the MBTA on a daily basis.
- Zipcar - For those times that you absolutely need a car (say, to take a trip to Ikea in Stoughton or a weekend trip to NH to go skiing) Zipcar may me the way to go. Zipcar is a network of "on demand" rental cars scattered throughout most Boston neighborhoods. Most parking garages will have Zipcars available, as well as other spaces throughout the city. You just pay a small annual membership fee and when you need a car just open the app, see what's nearby, reserve the car, unlock & go! Cars can be rented hourly, daily, weekly, etc. It's much easier than a traditional rental car because mileage, gas, and insurance are all built in to the price! Many residents of Boston live without a car and use the Zipcar service for the few times a year that they truly need a car.
- UBER - Uber is a ride sharing service that many Bostonians use to get around. Instead of owning a car why not just let someone else who already owns a car drive you around? Uber is similar to a taxi service, but generally ends up being cheaper than traditional taxis. Note: although Uber is wildly popular it is not regulated by the city.
- Taxis - There are always traditional taxi service in the area as well. Taxis are great if you need to get somewhere quickly, and they are fairly reliable.
- Hubway - Don't feel like driving at all? Looking for a "greener" option? Hubway is Boston's bicycle sharing program, similar to Zipcar, but for bicycles. The main difference is you can pick up a bicycle at one location, and return it to a different location. On nice days this is a great option, and it's great exercise, too! (and don't forget to pack a helmet!)
If you DO own a car
Ok, so here's the reason you really wanted to read this blog. Say that you want to live in the city, but you need a car to commute to work. What do you do with it? Where can you keep it? It's important to note that most apartments in Boston will not come with parking, so often times you will need to seek out a space independently. If parking in the building is a must have item then you should consider looking at high rise or complex style buildings. You may also want to consider the cost of keeping a car in the city, even before you add in parking fees. Here are the typical costs of owning a car:
[Price of Car] + [Registration Fees] + [Insurance] + [Gas] + [Tolls] + [Maintenance] + [Parking Tickets/Tows]
= TRUE COST TO OWN
Figuring in all these costs, you may once again ask yourself "Do I still need a car?" Given the relatively low cost of public transportation, as well as the vast variety of alternative transportation options available in Boston, you may find that keeping a car here may become a headache. However, alternative transportation aside, there are still people who absolutely need to keep a car in the city. If you are one of those people, these are going to be the options available to you for parking:
- Street Parking - If you are a resident of Boston you have the option of resident street parking. There is hardly any cost for this option, aside from switching over your registration, insurance, etc. You will need to provide proof of residency, which usually means showing city hall a copy of your signed lease. There is no 100% guarantee that you will be able to find an available space, but it's a great option for those needing parking on a budget. Note: there are more resident stickers than there are spaces available, so spaces are snagged on a "first come, first served" basis. It's also important to note that you will also need to move your car at least 2x a month for street cleaning days as well, and for snow emergencies in the winter. Failure to do so could result in a ticket/tow charge, so watch the signs (Tip: take a picture with your phone when you park so you can remember). Also keep in mind that some neighborhoods, such as the North End and Beacon Hill, have very limited resident parking availability which can sometimes make it feel impossible to find a space, whereas other neighborhoods such as Back Bay and South End have more resident parking spaces and may be easier neighborhoods to utilize resident parking in. Information on how to obtain a resident permit can be found here.
- Meters - Meters are only for temporary parking. But if you are in a pinch they are located all over Boston neighborhoods, especially in the business districts. Just keep in mind that they usually carry a 2 hour time limit, and you cannot keep feeding the meter. Meter rules can be found here.
- Private Spaces - Many brownstone buildings (both apartment buildings and condo buildings) have parking spaces behind the building that are rented out privately. These spaces are generally either classified as singles (one space for one car - no blocking) or tandems (one slot that hold 2 cars - one blocks the other). Single spaces ($300-$400/mo) typically cost more than tandem spaces ($200-$300/mo) because of the convenience of not having to move cars or exchange keys with a "parking buddy". The benefit to private spaces are that you can usually find a spot that's close to your apartment or condo, and they are cheaper than garages. The downside is that you are still exposed to the elements, which means having to shovel out in the winter.
- Garages - Garages are typically the most convenient (but also the most expensive - $400/mo+up) parking option because they offer secure, guaranteed, "shovel-free" indoor parking. They are located all throughout the city, but are usually clustered around commercial areas and areas where there are newer high rise style apartment and condo buildings. You are less likely to find garages in brownstone neighborhood areas.
Tip: If you work Monday through Friday during the day, and you need your car to get to work, you might consider looking into what's called a "reverse commute" or "commuter" parking plan option. Many garages offer this option at a significantly reduced price which is lower than their 24/7 monthly plans.
Written by Justin G.
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