How are Sacramento Residents Adjusting to New Parking Rules Downtown?

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As residents of Sacramento, we love taking advantage of the countless restaurants, bars, and coffee joints throughout Midtown and Downtown.

But if you live in the area as well, and you’ve ventured into Downtown Sacramento for a night out since the Golden1 Center opened last October, you’ve probably noticed a significant—if subtle—difference in parking options. You may have even gotten a parking ticket for your trouble.

Parking ticket Sacramento

In case you aren’t aware, the city of Sacramento instituted three major changes to Downtown parking in the last few months:

1. Meters operate until 10 PM.

Previously, most Downtown parking meters switched over to free parking mode at 6 PM (a few ran until 8 PM). The intent of this at the time was to encourage increased business traffic in the area. With the opening of the Golden1 Center, the city apparently feels that this approach is no longer necessary, and parking meters now operate until 10 PM. Failing to keep your meter fed will result in a ticket costing $42.50 to remedy.

2. Time restrictions in permit parking zones apply until 10 PM.

In the past, many visitors to the Downtown area have taken advantage of residential parking areas within a few blocks of their destinations, which lifted time restrictions for non-residents (typically 1 to 2 hours) after 6 PM. Now, these restrictions apply until 10 PM.

This means that people parking in residential areas have to come back and move their cars if they park before 8 PM in 2 hour parking areas, or before 9 PM in 1 hour parking areas.

3. Parking meters now work on a tiered pricing system.

Sacramento Two Hour Parking

Parking meters now have signs that identify them as 1+, 2+, 3+, or 4+ hour meters. Within the time limit indicated on the label, visitors are charged at a rate of $1.75 per hour. For the first hour after this limit, the rate rises to $3.00 per hour. After this, the rate increases to $3.75 an hour. For example, if someone parked at a 2+ hour meter for 6 hours, they would have to pay $17.75 ($1.75 for each of the first two hours, $3.00 for the third hour, and $3.75 for each of the last three hours).

While this last change has resulted in an annoying and off-putting price hike for Downtown drivers, it’s the first two alterations that have really fleeced the wallets of unsuspecting visitors.

Sacramento is seeing an explosion in parking tickets.

Back in December, The Sacramento Bee dug into parking ticket data from November, the first full month in which parking tickets were written for failing to keep meters fed until 10 PM (they didn’t include tickets for lingering too long in residential permit parking areas).

The Bee found the geographical breakdown of tickets was as follows:

  • Roughly 25% of tickets were issued within 1/3 of a mile of the Golden1 Center.
  • Another 25% were written in Old Sacramento.
  • More than a third of all tickets were issued in Midtown and on the outskirts of Downtown, far away from the city center but near a number of late night hangouts.

According to parking data published by The Bee in November 2016, parking ticket hotspots haven’t changed substantially since the new rules were written. Key hotspots include Old Sacramento, J Street between 8th and 29th, I Street between 6th and 10th, 12th and L Street, and 13th and R.

Overall, 5,125 tickets were written in November, an increase of 1,125 tickets over the previous month. Unsurprisingly, when looking at the times that the tickets were written, the biggest uptick was in the hours from 6 to 10 PM (when compared to November 2015). Between 6 and 8 PM, the number of tickets written increased from 417 to 726. But it was between 8 and 10 PM where the number of tickets written truly exploded, increasing from 5 to 1,017.

Sacramento visitors looking to avoid parking tickets have a few options at their disposal.

While the new parking situation is clearly an annoyance, as demonstrated by interviews conducted in the articles above and elsewhere, the reality is that things aren’t going to change anytime soon. Here are a few options Downtown patrons can take advantage of in order to avoid getting a costly parking ticket.

1. Use the Parkmobile app to top off your meter.

Many meters in Downtown Sacramento are connected to Parkmobile, a system that allows you to pay for additional time on your meter using your phone or a web browser. The system is still in its infancy, so Parkmobile-enabled meters are still relatively rare. You can check Parkmobile’s location map for more information. The Parkmobile app is currently available for iPhones, Android devices, and Windows phones.

2. Hitch a ride with Uber or Lyft.

Uber and Lyft have long been popular in the Sacramento area, and with the parking situation becoming increasingly fraught, there are more reasons than ever to take advantage of these popular ridesharing apps.

If you’re planning on spending time downtown for more than a couple of hours, Uber or Lyft may well be less expensive than paying to park in a garage or at a parking meter. Uber’s fare calculator estimates that a one-way ride across much of Midtown and Downtown would run $5 to $6 in an uberX car, while the Lyft Calculator estimates that a base level Lyft ride of similar length would run $6 to $8.

Roundtrip, this amounts to $10 to $16. While this is certainly more expensive than the free parking options of the past, it’s quite a bit cheaper than paying a $42.50 ticket for an expired meter.

3. Break out your bike.

If you’re reading this, then you probably know that bikes are everywhere in Sacramento. And more importantly, bike racks are all over Downtown, thanks in part to Sacramento’s Bicycle Rack Program, which installs bike racks for free in front of qualifying businesses.

Bike Rack Sacramento

Those choosing to ride their bikes to the Golden1 Center will be pleased to discover that a number of new bike racks have been installed nearby, and a free bike valet service is available at Cesar Chavez Park at 9th and J Street during Kings home games and major events, from 90 minutes before the start of a game or event until 45 minutes after it ends.

While the parking situation in Downtown Sacramento is far more challenging (and frustrating) than it used to be, the Downtown/Midtown area has more than enough dining and entertainment options to deal with this inconvenience. If you’re careful and take advantage of one of the options described above, you’ll be able to avoid the annoyance of getting a parking ticket, while keeping your parking and transportation costs to a minimum.