Avoid Summer In the City Parking Nightmares

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parkMemorial Day is the start of summer — which means a full schedule of outdoor festivals and concerts, many of them free.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that attending those al fresco events also brings the hassle of circling crowded city streets looking for somewhere to park.

Too often, it’s a frustrating experience. Garages are expensive; meters have time limits; street signs can be confusing — and nothing shatters the mood of a fun evening faster than returning to your car and finding a ticket on the windshield, or worse, that your car has been towed.

In July and August, the Hartford Jazz Society presents Monday Night Jazz, a free, weekly concert series, in Bushnell Park, and thousands of attendees drive into downtown Hartford to hear performances by well-known musicians. Also in July, the annual three-day Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, in Bushnell Park, draws an audience of close to 50,000.

Both events fill streets and garages, but with a little advance planning, you can avoid parking problems, says Eric Boone, CEO of the Hartford Parking Authority.

“There’s plenty of easy and affordable parking in downtown Hartford,” says Boone. “Metered street parking is free on Saturday and Sunday. Unless there’s an event at the XL Center, weekend parking is just $6.50 a day at the MAT garage on South Chapel St.”

 

 

Most of downtown Hartford’s 40-plus parking lots and garages are privately owned and set their own fees, but the Hartford Parking Authority, (www.hartfordparking.com), operates several garages, and often offers special event, flat parking rates. Their website includes an option that allows you to choose a parking venue, reserve a spot and pre-pay by credit card ahead of time, along with information on DASH, a free downtown shuttle service that operates during some events and links garages and downtown destinations.

Motorists opting for street parking in Hartford are required to pay meters, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (In most cases, there’s a two-hour limit.) From 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday, metered parking turns into free parking. Many of the old coin meters have been replaced with Parking Pay Stations. You find a space, go over to the kiosk, pay for the time you need with coins or credit card, take the receipt and display it on your car’s curbside dashboard.

Business For Downtown Hartford, (BFDH.org), offers a Park-Shop-Dine card that can be used at a number of restaurants, shops, events, parking facilities and on-street Pay Stations in Hartford. Cards, which can be purchased online at HartfordParking.com or in person at Stackpole, Moore, Tryon on Trumbull St., are available in amounts ranging from $10 to $250, (plus processing fees).

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas is a 15-day festival of performing arts that takes place each June in New Haven. More than 100,000 people attend the events, which means parking is at a premium. Festival organizers offer a $5 parking voucher, accepted at a number of garages, on their website, www.artidea.org/parking.

Street parking in downtown New Haven is available, but limited. Metered parking is in effect until 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. (Most meters have a two-hour limit from 8 a.m.to 5 p.m., and no limit after 5 p.m. Metered parking is free on Sunday.) You can pay with coins or by using “Parkmobile,” a iOS, Android, Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone app that allows you to pay for parking using your cell phone. Information: www.parkmobile.com.

You create an account prior to your first use, (you’ll need to provide your cell phone number, email address, license plate and credit card information), then start your parking session by calling a toll-free number from your registered phone. You can sign up to receive an alert 15 minutes before your time runs out and you can extend your parking session from your phone (assuming you haven’t used up the maximum time restriction). Information at CityofNewHaven.com/TrafficParking/.

If you’re driving to Boston, New York City, Providence or one of 100 other cities for an event, download the Best Parking app before you go. Once you arrive at your destination, plug in an address, cross street, neighborhood or attraction, and the app will direct you to the cheapest nearby parking lot. Rates are updated regularly, and links to any available discount coupons are provided. Available for iOS, Android or BlackBerry users. Information at www.BestParking.com.