The Decodification of Finding a Parking Spot


Dear Parking Guru,

Thanks to you I've been ticket-free for over two years now and consider myself a savvy parker. But I have a situational question for you that has really got me stumped, and your insight on the situation might be a game changer for me.

Occasionally I need to head downtown to the FiDi or Union Square and if I'm only going into a business for a minute or two, I'd prefer to park at a meter rather than deal with the hassle of a garage. But here's the thing - all of the meters I see downtown are yellow meters with tow-away signs during business hours. However, sometimes I see regular Joes and Janes parked at these meters! What am I missing? Can I park in these spots too?  Please clue me in.

Feeling Left Out


Dear Flo,

Prepare for your parking game to be elevated to a higher level. Like you, many other drivers make the assumption that a yellow meter with a tow away sign always means that the general public can’t park there during business hours.  Not true. Many of these meters become available for the public to park in as early as 11 a.m.!

Steuart St. between Mission and Howard is a great example. The long row of yellow meters on the right side of the street are for truck loading from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. This means that for 20 hours, between 11 a.m. today and 7 a.m. tomorrow these meters are available to the general public. 

An alternative to reading every sign posted in every yellow zone, you can simply use VoicePark.  It not only finds you the nearest available meter in real-time, it guides you to it by voice, and will never direct you to a yellow zone meter during a time that the meter is restricted to trucks only, so it sorts all of this out for you. 

Now, I have 180 words left, so let’s take it a step further, spots with signs for construction are similar in that many people assume that a sign means you can’t park there.  Not always true.  My experience is that 80% of the time, the sign is posted before the times are in effect, or has been left there after the times are in effect.

The photo of a meter on Steuart St. (above) shows all of these variables, and more.

A) Red-topped meter in a yellow zone.  Wtf is that?  This is even more restrictive than a yellow-topped meter which is for all trucks.  A red-topped meter is only for trucks with 6 wheels or more.

B) Construction saw horse.  Doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t park there.  Check to see if the times are posted.

C) The posted limit of the construction zone has expired (below).


D) Don’t be fooled by the jacket on the sawhorse.  You may assume that the fine imitation gray rabbit fur is indicative of a construction executive’s presence, but it is not.  Probably left there during an alcohol related incident from the previous evening (below).


E) Time limits in which loading zone is not available for general public parking.


F) Quarter on the ground.  You can find them all the time nearby meters.  They will only buy 2.5 minutes of time at a downtown meter, so in that context, people often don’t bother to pick them up when they drop them. 

G) Last but not least, do not forget to check restrictive signs for 100 feet in both directions.  These signs trump all else (below).


Thanks for writing Flo.  I am sure that your parking experience will now be much less stressful.

David LaBua is a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement, author of Finding the Sweet Spot, and founder of VoicePark, the world’s first voice-guided mobile app that guides drivers to the closest available parking spot in real-time. Follow him on twitter@ParkingGuru.



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