My Two Sense

Park like a Pro in Downtown Raleigh

This post first appeared on Inside919, a networking group for small and micro business owners. 919 has morphed into the new Indieconomy, launching May 1.

Never fear. There is a place to park near your downtown Raleigh destination, and it’s easier to find than you may think.

As a downtown Raleigh resident, I hear a lot of questions about parking, especially from those who want to attend my weekly networking coffee breaks at Benelux Cafe in City Market.

So I thought I’d offer a primer on parking in downtown Raleigh along with some pro tips.

Where to Park
Don’t let anyone ever tell you there is not enough parking downtown. Counts of parking spaces show an oversupply. But many people don’t see the parking.

Downtown Raleigh offers both street parking and multiple parking decks. New visitors find it easier to park on the street because it’s more visible. But you may actually be driving past a deck as you circle the block. So consider a parking deck, especially if it’s raining or really hot, because you can park in the shade. Many decks have more than one entrance and exit.

Pro tip #1: The rates are slightly higher for some of parking decks versus street parking, but most of the decks offer you the first 15 minutes free, so depending on your arrival and departure time, it may be better to use a deck. (Keep going for more about rates.) Plus you don’t have a time limit, so you don’t have to fret about a possible ticket if your meeting runs long.

Here is a fantastic map showing the parking decks. The purple ones are owned by the city of Raleigh and charge from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. The red one, L, is owned by the county (daytime parking only) and the beige-colored decks are privately owned and have different rates and hours.

Here is another great map and list of the parking decks. If you click on the link, you’ll get deck rates, a photo, payment hours and more.

As you enter the parking deck, you’ll get a white ticket. You can leave that in the car; there are no easy pay machines like at the airport. When you exit, you can pay the attendant with cash or credit card.

Top of one of the parking decks in downtown Raleigh. My husband and I practiced our wedding dance on top of this very deck. Photo by Alex Ford.
Top of one of the parking decks in downtown Raleigh. My husband and I practiced our wedding dance on top of this very deck. Photo by Alex Ford.

Pro tip #2: If you exit the parking deck after the attendant has left for the night, you will not have to pay for your stay. In the city decks, the attendant usually leaves around 9 or 10 p.m. Some of the private decks (the Glenwood Deck, for example) charge 24 hours a day.

How to Park on the Street
On-street parking in some zones is free, but has a time limit. Just look for a green parking sign, which will tell you how long you can park there. The blue parking signs indicate the space requires payment, but those also have a time limit. If there is no sign, you are outside of the main downtown area and can park for free for as long as you want. Just be sure you are not parking in a ‘resident only’ area.

Watch out for: Loading zones, taxi zones and plug-in vehicle spaces. You will get a ticket for parking there. (Unless you have a plug-in vehicle.)

When you park in a paid space, you’ll see a number painted on the curb. Make a note of that number and look down the sidewalk, left and right, for the nearest pay station.

Pro tip #3: You can’t re-up your space. After you have parked in the space for the allowed time, you can add more money to the meter, but you may receive a ticket because technically, you are staying beyond your time. (Paid parking is meant to create turnover.) I have heard of very few people getting tickets for this, but just a heads up.

How to Pay for On-Street Parking
The meters are fairly easy to use. Type in your parking space number, then follow the instructions to add either coins or use your Visa or Mastercard (no AmEx). The meters do not accept paper money.

Pro tip #4: It’s quicker to parallel park properly than to pull into a space oddly and try to fix it. Stop a few feet before the space and turn on your hazards so the person behind you knows to give you some room as you pull forward.

IMPORTANT: Park within the white lines. (Sounds like a big ‘duh’ but I know people who complain about receiving a ticket for not doing this.) Your tires must be within the white tick marks painted on the street.

Cost of Parking
Street parking is free after 5 p.m. on weekdays and free all day on weekends. Otherwise, the meters cost $1 per hour, except for those on and around Faytteville Street, where it’s slightly higher. Of course, not all of them allow you to park for an hour, so watch out for the time limits.

The cost of parking in a deck depends on who owns it, but it runs from $1 per 30 minutes to $2 per hour. Check this list for rates.

Still Curious?
If you’re interested in knowing even more about downtown Raleigh parking, check out this article, “The State of Downtown Parking” I wrote for the Raleigh Public Record. (A nonprofit organization, by the way. Support local journalism by making a donation.)

Looking for a Restaurant or Bar?
Also, if you’re looking for a comprehensive list of downtown Raleigh restaurants, bars and coffee shops, The Raleigh Connoisseur has a fantastic list on his “Eats” page broken out by downtown district. It’s mobile device friendly.