Let’s talk about parking anxiety

Photo via Pexels

If you live in a big city, you have probably experienced parking anxiety. I’m not talking about whether or not you can actually pull into a parking space satisfactorily (though apparently it’s a thing) — I’m talking about going to a new place in a hopping part of town with little parking.

Let me preface: I live in Austin, Texas. Austin’s growing fast, getting crowded and didn’t really think about our traffic problem ahead of time. The result is narrow streets, little to no free parking, a mythical quest for metered street parking, or, if you’re just that unlucky, a $10+ fee for parking in a garage.

Let’s note, $10 is usually something of a minimum. It’s not unusual to see parking go up to $80 or more for a spot during SXSW.

So we’re driving to a destination and the following obstacles could (and probably will) present themselves.

Parking meters are your friend. //Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
  1. Expensive parking at the destination — Here is where we immediately search for another alternative, because, let’s be real, nobody wants to pay for parking.
  2. Parallel parking — I can manage this, but like most people, I’d just rather not.
Parallel parking can be daunting, even for the skilled driver. //Photo via Pexels

3. Back-in parking — I like back-in parking better than parallel parking, but for most, it’s just as stressful. Both involve stopping traffic behind you, waiting for you to get your parking right.

4. Metered parking — This is the preferable route. Meters are way cheaper and you can adjust it for how long you need (so you don’t have to pay that $10 parking garage fee for a short stop).

5. Free parking — Sometimes you can find it, maybe in residential areas or with 1–2 hour time restrictions. Again, rare in Austin, and I suspect rarer in most bigger cities.

When you develop a routine and are familiar with the routes, parking spots, traffic of an area, this becomes less complicated. But it’s still a quest that may render you 30 minutes late to a meeting, or even annoyingly early. Our time is precious, and we don’t want to have to map out an hour of our day just in case parking is bad.

So, I’d like to share a few things that have helped me deal with these obstacles. Here are my parking anxiety tips:

  1. Ask a local. If you’re going for a meeting in a congested or unknown area, ask someone who lives in the area, or whomever you’re meeting, what the parking situation looks like. Ask what they suggest.
  2. Map out the parking garages nearby and the rates. Apps like SpotHero and BestParking can be life savers if you want to compare local rates. Some offer parking spot reservations and options to pay parking fees through the app.
  3. Scout out the area. Sure, it sounds like a cliché pre-interview routine, but sometimes just being at the place before you actually need to be there can help you relax, and maybe even spot a place to grab a coffee while you’re in the area.
  4. Keep calm and trust yourself. If you’re in high-volume traffic, driving can be stressful. Keep tabs of the other cars, but just because traffic is dense doesn’t mean the other cars aren’t going to be courteous if you need in the other lane, want to stop to back-in park, etc. Just take a deep breath, be patient and drive carefully, and you’ll be fine.
  5. Know the parking/towing laws in your area.
Image via Pixabay

If you’re nervous if you could still be towed if signage is unclear, do a Google search of towing laws in your state or county. I found this helpful article from 2014 about Texas towing laws. Signage must include specific wording, colors and hours for the tow to be legal, and even so, a car owner can ask the tower to “drop” the car if they’re in the process of loading it. Legally (at least in Austin), they have to.