The good news about downtown areas in the Triangle: Unlike some communities, they are all vibrant areas of commerce, with many shops, restaurants and other places of business occurring in their districts. The bad news about downtown areas in the Triangle: They all cost you money to park your car when visiting them during business hours.
Parking is a major headache in many Triangle towns. There either seems to be too little available next to major attractions, or too much to pay when you find a space. And if you are just a few minutes late in feeding coins to an expired parking meter, somehow it seems the police always seem to find your car in time to ticket it before you arrive – or worse yet, tow you if the space is too valuable. This can be quite costly. In Raleigh, for example, you can be ticketed $12 for a meter violation, and if you are towed.
There are ways of beating this, of course. Triangle shopping centers do not charge for parking, for example, and of course if you use public transportation, you will not have a car that needs a space when you are downtown. Also, parking decks and spaces generally (but not always) do not charge visitors at night, on weekends and during holidays. And some nearby residential streets are free for you to park during business hours, if you do not mind walking a couple of blocks to your downtown destination.
But chances are that at least one time you will need to be downtown in a Triangle city on a weekday to do business or maybe just for pleasure, so keep the following tips in mind for the major cities:
Raleigh has a meter rate of 50 cents and charges a maximum of $9 per day to use its parking decks. There are monthly lot rates available ranging from $50 to $120. Some downtown establishments do have a limited number of spaces devoted to their patrons – check with them ahead of time to see if such a setup exists. A good general resource for the Raleigh parking situation and locations of where you can and should park can be found in the PDF format at this link. And if you do have a traffic violation, the city at least is nice enough to let you pay for it via the Internet at the Park Raleigh Web site.
The parking situation in Durham is 60 cents per hour up to a maximum of $5.85 at any of the city’s four big parking garages. However, there are some lots with free spaces or spaces that are free with a one-hour or two-hour time limit as well, and then others that are just spaces contracted at monthly rates ranging from $10 to $35. If that all sounds confusing and inconsistent to you, well, welcome to downtown Durham. The full explanation of what is involved where can be read on this lengthy page in the town’s official Web site.
In Chapel Hill, Franklin Street has a limited number of spots that allow for only two hours of parking maximum off the street at 25 cents per every 15 minutes. Two big municipal parking lots located on Rosemary Street, which parallels Franklin to the north, charge 65 cents every half hour up to six hours, then $1.80 per hour afterward. For a handy guide to what spaces are available in town and where they are located, click here.
Finally, please note the area universities have their own parking rules and enforcement beyond what is presented here. Because they are so extensive themselves, we will cover them in a later blog.