Parking in Cambridge is highly regulated by the Department of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation. On and off-street parking is available to both visitors and residents, but restrictions vary widely based on time and location, so paying attention to signage is a must.
Where to park in Cambridge, MA
For off-street visitor parking, the City of Cambridge operates two municipal parking garages – one on First Street in East Cambridge near Cambridge Crossing, and the other on Green Street in Central Square – and nine off-street parking lots near Harvard Square, Central Square, and Inman Square. There are also a number of privately-run garages and lots, mostly around Kendall Square, MIT, Harvard Square, and Alewife, although these tend to be more expensive than those run by the city (about $2/hr vs $10+/hr).
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On-street metered parking is common on main roads and side streets near major business areas, including Cambridge Street from Lechmere to Harvard Square, Vassar Street near MIT, First and Third Streets in East Cambridge, and almost all of Massachusetts Avenue.
Because most residential streets are permit-only, free on-street parking in Cambridge is minimal. However, what limited options there are can usually be found near public parks.
Cambridge Parking Permits
Due to high density, off-street residential parking in Cambridge isn’t always an option. Residents seeking consistent on-street parking will want to obtain a City of Cambridge parking permit, which allows long term and overnight parking in permit-only areas as well as some parking lots and metered spaces. You can apply for a residential parking permit online, in person, or by mail with proof of Cambridge residency if your car is registered in Massachusetts. Permits cost $25 and expire every year on March 31.
Cambridge residential parking permits include an additional visitor permit that allows for non-residents to park in permit-only areas, but these are restricted to areas near the resident’s home no more than three days per week and vehicles must be moved every 24 hours.
Cambridge Parking Meters
Most City of Cambridge parking meters have a 2 hour time limit at rates ranging from $1-1.50/hr., although in some high turnover areas the maximum may be as low as 30 minutes. Meters take US quarters or online payment through the Passport Parking website or mobile app (although there is an additional $0.50 fee). Hours of operation are posted on nearby signs including exceptions, for example “2-HR Parking, 8AM – 6PM, Except Sat & Sun” means metered parking with a two hour limit is in effect between 8am and 6pm on weekdays, but parking is free and unrestricted between 6pm and 8am and on weekends. Some metered zones switch to permit-only at night, so be sure to read signs carefully. Cambridge parking meters do not operate on Sundays and state holidays.
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An important rule to know about Cambridge parking meters is that time limits are by zone rather than specific parking space, meaning once a vehicle has reached its limit it must relocate to another zone entirely. These zones only cover a few blocks, so if you do have to relocate it won’t be too far, but it does mean it’s useful to double check signage. You don’t want to end up with an overtime ticket because you moved from one space to another in the same zone.
Here’s my trick: if there’s a two hour maximum in a zone and you want to stay for four hours, you can bring quarters with you, load it up for two hours, and then when the initial two hours expire you can add an additional two hours on the Passport Parking website or mobile app.
Cambridge Parking Tickets
Fees for City of Cambridge parking tickets range between $25 and $120 depending on the violation. Tickets can be paid online, over the phone, by mail, or in person, and disputed either online or in writing. Cambridge residents will not be issued a residential parking permit if they have outstanding unpaid parking tickets, and any vehicle with five or more unpaid parking tickets over 21 days old is eligible to be booted.
Cambridge Parking Bans
Cambridge parking bans go into effect mostly for street cleaning and snow emergencies, although parking may be temporarily suspended in some locations to make room for things like moving trucks, construction, and special events. Street cleaning takes place between April 1 and December 31 on a schedule that varies by location. If the city declares a snow emergency, it is prohibited to park on streets marked “No Parking during Snow Emergency”. In such cases, the city usually makes parking garages available for off-street parking. You can sign up for the Cambridge alert network to receive alerts and reminders about upcoming parking bans. Vehicles in violation of a parking ban may be ticketed or towed.