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Starts & Stops

When meter runs out, find a new block

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2003

As a resident of the South End, Marleen Nienhuis tries to bike more than she drives, but she needed her Volvo wagon to haul wreath-making supplies to the holiday sale that underwrites the Garden Club of Back Bay’s work maintaining trees along the street. When she returned to the car with time on the meter, she said, she was surprised to find a ticket tucked under the hood.

Though she accepts occasional parking tickets as a cost of city living, this one gnawed at Nienhuis enough to prompt a call, raising a good question about Boston parking rules: Can you be ticketed for parking at two spots in the same neighborhood on the same day?

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Savvy parkers know that feeding the same meter is not allowed. In other words, if you park at a two-hour meter, plug it full of quarters, and run back later to drop more coins into the slot, you still run the risk of a ticket for exceeding the two-hour limit even if the counter never ticks down to 00:00. But what if you move to a nearby spot?

Nienhuis said she parked on Berkeley Street, left with time on the meter to go home for lunch and to walk her dog, and returned to park around the corner on Beacon Street, a few hundred feet away. Surprised to find a ticket when she returned, she said she called the city’s parking violations number and was informed the time limit applies not just to one spot but to a three-block area. (That information, it turns out, wasn’t quite right.)

Nienhuis said the principle of it bothered her more than the $25 fine. “There is no sign saying you can’t park in the same general area, so people are feeding the meter, and they’re getting tickets basically for a rule that is not stated or known.”

Though the meters and signs on the street may not say so, the Boston Transportation Department’s website offers this under Tip No. 4 (“Obey Parking Meter Rules and Regulations”) of its 13 tips for avoiding parking tickets: “When the time limit is up, a driver may choose to move the vehicle to another metered spot but ONLY if the second meter is on a different block from the original meter.”

But what about parking around the corner? Not a problem, Boston Transportation Department spokeswoman Tracey Ganiatsos said.

I conferred with Nienhuis, who remembered that she had visited the Garden Club fund-raiser two days in a row and that she might have mixed up the easily forgettable details of where she parked and when. She conceded there was a chance that this might be more of a garden-variety, overtime violation.

But back to this one-block rule, which was news to me. Ganiatsos pointed me to the 45-page Traffic Rules and Regulations of the City of Boston for the definition of a block: “The area along the curb or edge of a roadway which extends from one public or private way to another public or private way.”

In other words, a new block begins at each intersection, regardless of length. But be forewarned: The opposite side of the street is considered the same block. So if you’re parking on, say, Newbury Street and want to stick around after two hours, you’re out of luck if you see an open spot across the street but in luck if you see one past the next stop sign. But if you really want to hang around, the city would prefer if you parked in a garage, took the T, walked, or rode your bicycle.

“Please remember that the basic purpose of parking meters is to provide short-term parking opportunities to customers of local businesses, those heading to a quick medical or business appointments, etc.,” Ganiatsos said. “If a driver is going to be in the area for a significant period of time, we suggest that they utilize an off-street parking facility.”

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com.
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