Curbed enthusiasm

An online guide to Boston parking
By MIKE MILIARD  |  October 3, 2007

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Walking to work not long ago, I saw a flyer taped to a street lamp advertising an auction for eight parking spaces on Beacon Street. Bidding began at $250 per month, each. How high would it ultimately soar? I shuddered to think. I just knew I was glad to be walking.

You may have noticed a certain dearth of parking in this city’s narrow, hugger-mugger byways. Worse, what spots there are sit beneath a confusing jumble of signs atop signs. Beneath them, parking meters stand mute and treacherous: tiny automatons ready to betray you, with a wink of their digital displays, to the unlovely meter maid lurking around the corner.

It’s a concrete jungle out there. But Erik Feder, “The Parking Expert,” seeks to help us bushwhack our way to the perfect parking spot. His new Web site, wheretofindparking.com, aims to tell you just what its URL says it will.

Feder did not arrive at this position easily. “Like a lot of people, I’ve been burned,” says the New York City resident. “I’ve been burned by parking tickets, I’ve been towed — I’ve fought both, and won. It was kind of a trial by fire.”

One day, Feder was standing on the sidewalk. Out of nowhere, a traffic cop descended with a stack of tickets, slamming them on eight or 10 successive windshields, he says. “One after another. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! It sounds like a cliché, but a light bulb went on over my head.”

So he got out a notepad and got into his car. First, he canvassed Manhattan. Then he criss-crossed greater Boston, from “South End to North End, from Boston Harbor all the way to Fenway.” As he did, he jotted down the parking regulations on the signs of each street. By the time he was finished, he’d “driven on every single street in both cities.”

So it is that Bostonians, Cantabrigians, and Manhattanites — and, soon, San Franciscans, Chicagoans, and Angelenos — can log on to his database and, for $9.95 per month (for computers), $11.95 (for mobile devices), or $13.95 (both), have unfettered access to his treasure trove of parking info.

Log on before you leave the house, enter in the cross-streets of your destination, and the time you hope to park, and the site will tell you if there are street spaces nearby, and also whether there are good deals at parking garages in the area.

“I did the research,” says Feder. “No one had ever compiled an extensive list of street-parking regulations.”

Of course, knowing a space exists won’t matter if, as is probable, it’s already taken by some frat boy’s Hummer. The utility of Feder’s site is that it lets you know when parking prohibitions expire, so you can swoop in and snag a space as soon as it’s legal.

It’s a helpful guide, he insists, to an “unbelievable mess of signs. How are you gonna read that and understand it as you’re going by, with a car honking behind you and somebody crossing the street in front of you?”

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