The Guide: Wintertime Parking in Boston

How to survive the snow onslaught without losing your cool.


Illustration by Sam Island

In a city where our cars regularly vanish into snowbanks and an indoor parking spot can sell for $650,000, automobile ownership isn’t for the faint of heart. Come high winter, fantasies of cracking your neighbor’s skull with a shovel may even seem like a perfectly reasonable response to the question of where to pile snow. But cooler heads, bolstered by careful planning, can prevail. We asked Daniel Nee, who spent 72 straight days working a plow last winter as supervisor of highway maintenance for the Department of Public Works, for pointers on how to stay ahead of the white stuff.


Stake a Claim

Unless you’re in the South End, it’s okay to call dibs on a parking space—temporarily. The mayor’s office advises that space savers may be deployed only in the first 48 hours after a snow emergency is declared. As for the South End, space savers were banned last winter and City Hall “respects that policy.”

Seek Shelter

If you have a valid resident parking sticker, more than a dozen garages in Boston offer steep discounts during snow emergencies.

Swap Sides in Somerville

Historically, every year when significant snowfall loomed, you could park only on the odd-numbered side of the street. After last winter, though, the city decided to alternate sides each year. So this year, it’s odd-only, and next year it’ll be even-only.

Mind the Meters

The penny pinchers at City Hall are relentless. Meters remain in effect, even during snow emergencies.


Protect Your Wheels

Most plows, Nee says, have a fixed blade that pushes snow to the right, so snag a spot on the left of one-way streets.

Dig It Out

It can take weeks for a car’s ice-tomb to melt, and leaving your car buried makes you look like a lazy nitwit.

Keep the Roads Clear

Every snowstorm hits twice—first from the sky, then from the shovels. Throwing snow into the streets is a finable offense, but Nee knows that you “can only build a three-sided igloo around your car so high.” Just don’t do it right after he clears your street.

Help a Firefighter

If you spent two hours shoveling out your car, spend another 10 minutes digging out a nearby fire hydrant.

— Plus —


Snowplow operator Daniel Nee gives us the skinny on the season ahead:

If someone is parked like a jerk, does snow law allow plow operators to bury his or her car?

We’re not all vindictive assholes. I want to clear the section of street I’m responsible for and get a coffee and something to eat. We’re all just trying to clear the street so that our bosses don’t yell at us.

Any burly new equipment you’re champing at the bit to use this season?

We bought two front-end-loader-mounted snowblowers. Picture a snowblower the size of a VW bus. It will allow us to throw the snow pretty far into open places—that’s the cheapest way to go. We’re hoping we won’t need to use them.

How will this winter compare with 2015?

I don’t think anything will compare with last year. That’s a once-in-a-hundred-years winter. That was insane. If you told me last January what was going to happen in February, I would have resigned on the spot and left.



Space Savers by Neighborhood


Snowmojis We’d Like to See


*This story was updated on January 11 to reflect the South End’s neighborhood ban on space savers.