How to Park: Here Space-age kiosks and tricky alternative parking Rules

Change: It’s an unavoidable and constant part of the human condition, and that applies to parking in Ithaca.
Of course, if you are a member the target demographic for this special section, a newcomer to this fair vale, you wouldn’t know how things used to be when it came to parking a car. So feel free to use this handy guide to figure out how to most effectively complain about or praise how parking is in Ithaca right now.

In 2015 the city started installing digital meters for on-street parking, replacing the old “lollipop” ticky-tock meters that only take change. The disadvantage of the new system, as many people quickly made clear, was that one has to walk to the meter machines. For people who don’t like that walk, scratch-off cards are available for sale, now wherever trash tags are sold [Yes, if you are a city resident, you must put tags on your trash; they’re available at city hall at 108 E. Green Street and grocery stores.]

For those brave enough to use the meters, they accept cash (including paper money) or credit. Paid parking hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, holidays excepted.

Remember that you might need to do a bit of walking to get to the pay meter once you’ve parked. It may be necessary to cross a street, a particularly important concern for disabled or elderly drivers, or when winter cold overtakes Ithaca. (It will get cold. Sorry. You’re on the Allegheny Plateau). Look for the blue-lettered signs that say “Pay Station On (This or Other) Side of Street.”

This year, several downtown blocks now have meters on both sides of the street. To find them look around for the little “P” signs.

Before leaving your vehicle: know your license plate number!

If you plan on doing a lot of downtown parking, memorize your license plate number—or save it in your thinking-for-you phone, if you must. There will also be keyfobs available at parking meters on which you can write your plate number.

After you arrive at a station, hit any button to make the screen light up—the screens are well backlit and should be visible even in direct sunlight—and select your language (English, Spanish, Mandarin, or French) then you will be asked to put in your license plate number.

Once your license plate number is inserted into the system, parking officers can now check to see if you’re paid up. The benefit of this is you can take extra time with you when you move your car to another metered spot.

Now that your plate number is entered, pay the meter. Change is still sufficient, but not necessary. The meters also take bills and credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover). Add time at $1.50 an hour up to the two-hour limit. Take your receipt, which you do not need to put on the dashboard. You’re all paid up and done! Remember when your time runs out, and come back beforehand to avoid a ticket.

There’s also an option to install the ParkMobile app ( on your phone, which also allows you to extend your parking session remotely when it’s running out, and the app will notify you via text when time is almost up.

In the neighborhoods, East Hill is the only area where residential permits are required. To get a sticker visit the city clerk’s office in city hall with proof of residency and $45.

And then there’s winter parking. From Nov. 1 to April 1 “odd/even” parking applies. You will forget how it works, but the program exists to clear streets of snow. It is prohibited to park your car on the odd side of the street (look at the house numbers) on an odd day of the month. Because this applies between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. it will likely be the day before when you actually park. The easiest way to remember, unless you’re parking after midnight, is to put the car on the even side if it’s the evening of an even day, and on an odd side on the evening of an odd day. Got it? Good luck.

There’s also four parking garages. Check out the city’s website ( for information about parking passes, if you must commute downtown by car.

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