Solving the Parking Problem Downtown

We’re happy to report that driving and parking Downtown is getting easier and more user-friendly. Spending time in the city center has typically required drivers to navigate an unnecessarily …

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We’re happy to report that driving and parking Downtown is getting easier and more user-friendly. Spending time in the city center has typically required drivers to navigate an unnecessarily complex and inhospitable system of one-way streets, baffling parking regulations and maddening inconsistency in the placement and function of parking meters. (This multi-space meter doesn’t take credit cards? The one two blocks over does. I don’t have any coins.) Fortunately, that has been changing for the better.

Last month, Empire and Weybosset Streets were opened to two-way traffic after some repair and improvement work. This will free up the flow of traffic in and around Downtown, and no longer require circumnavigating the entire neighborhood to, say, double back to AS220 if you miss a parking spot on the first pass, or get to PPAC if you’re already on Dorrance.

Of course, the biggest problem most of us have Downtown is parking: where to find it, how to know if it’s legal and how to pay for it. The City and the Downtown Improvement District (you know, the folks responsible for those yellow-jacketed workers watering the flowers and cleaning up the sidewalks) are working on an initiative to provide visitors with better information and options. The aptly named Park Downtown Providence effort involves new parking-directional signs and green stickers placed on meters to clarify enforcement hours, but its most effective improvement is the accompanying website. It boasts features like an interactive map that will allow you to select your destination, then highlight nearby parking options that can be filtered by criteria like “credit cards accepted,” “indoor garages” and “open 24 hours.” Visitors can also find information about the locations and rules of on-street parking, a list of parking specials and directions to popular locations. While it won’t entirely solve the parking puzzle, it definitely puts a lot more pieces in place.