Parking in Madison - Tenant Resource Center

Parking in Madison

Note: Was your lease signed or did your concern start before 4/18/18? If so, please see the bottom of this page for law changes that may impact your situation. For quick summaries of the many many law changes, see our Law Changes Page.

Should I bring a car to UW Madison?

Some students will bring cars, because they want the convenience and/or they don't live downtown. Some students won't, because it's just too expensive -- no mater where they live.

UW Madison strongly advises that students leave their cars at home and instead either walk, bike, or use their FREE ASM Bus Pass for free public transportation throughout the City. Metro Transit has bus alert apps that make this easier than ever! Keep in mind that most students who have a vehicle will still take the bus to get to and from campus, since there is very little parking available right on campus -- even if you are willing to pay for it.

It is also very safe, easy and fun to ride your bike in Madison! We are a platinum level "Bike Friendly City" as ranked by the League of American Bicyclists, and UW-Madison is a gold level campus. 

Bike Madison has great resources on safety, bike paths, commuter tips, and more. There are many new and used bicycle shops around town, and the UW Madison Bicycle Resource Center in Helen C. White has clinics for students on bicycle mechanics and maintenance. All Madison Metro buses have a "rack and ride" option for those who want to combine busing and biking. Plus if you become a Bicycle Benefits member, you can get discounts all over town! 

If you are still considering having a vehicle while living downtown at UW-Madison, here is some important information to consider:

Where can I park in Madison?

Street Parking / Public Parking

Most of the street parking spots very near campus have parking meters, and space is limited. The time limit ranges from 25 minutes to 3 hours, at $2.00/hour. There are a few 10-hour "Park & Walk" spots near campus with a reduced rate of $1.10/hour. There are also parking garages near campus, with varying rates and restrictions. If you drive to campus for a two-hour class once a week, it could cost up to $40/semester just to park during that class.

The street parking spots in the rest of downtown are free, but there is a 2-hour time limit unless you have a neighborhood permit plus there are additional seasonal restrictions and space is limited. Tickets range from $25-$35 and up to $100 if towed.

There are accessible parking spots for people with disabilities in all city lots and garages, as well as on some streets with un-metered parking (including the Tenant Resource Center's main office at 1202 Williamson Street.) Visit the website for details.

In neighborhoods that are not immediately downtown (like much of the Vilas, Tenney, and Willy Street neighborhoods near campus) you can park for free on the street for up to 48 hours at a time, but space can be limited and there are seasonal restrictions.

Residential Parking Permits

Most downtown residents can apply for a Residential Parking Permit from the City of Madison for just $28/year. This permit lets you park for longer in the unmetered 2-hour spots on the street in your neighborhood, for up to 48 hours at a time. There are seasonal restrictions.

However, some buildings do not qualify for permits! Check out this list of ineligible addresses before you rent. If your apartment is on it, you will need to either rent a private parking spot or park your car farther away from downtown, where there will still be a 48-hour limit and seasonal restrictionsAs of 3/1/14, Madison landlords who rent those units are no longer required to tell you about this when you sign your lease! For this reason, it is especially important that tenants look out for themselves when applying for apartments and deciding whether to bring a car. MGO 32.08(2)(d), Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(d)1., 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 2

Read Parking Signs Closely!

There are lots of spots around the City with special exceptions to normal parking rules. These include disabled parking spaces, loading zones, taxi stands, special event parking, bike parking restrictions, and many more. Before leaving your vehicle, be sure to check your surroundings for any applicable parking signs. The tickets for violations parking range from $25-$100, plus more for towing.

Seasonal Restrictions

Winter Parking (Nov 15 - March 15)

Winter parking rules are in effect from November 15 - March 15 so that the City can plow the streets. People parking immediately downtown in the "Snow Emergency Zone" must obey alternate side parking rules during a declared snow emergency, which lasts a minimum of two nights. (The Snow Emergency status is published daily on the Madison Streets Division website, where you can also sign up for text/e-mail alerts.) Everyone else must obey alternate side parking rules from November 15 - March 15, regardless of snowfall. The tickets range from $20 (non-snow emergency, outside the snow emergency zone) to $60 plus a $50 towing fee (during a snow emergency, all areas). For more information, visit the Winter Parking website. 

Alternate Side Parking means you need to park on the EVEN house numbered side of the street on even numbered days from 1am-7am, and the ODD house numbered side of the street on odd numbered days. Because the City declares snow emergencies by 9pm on the night before, you should plan your parking for the following day (for example, the City declares a snow emergency at 8:30pm on December 1st; you should park on the EVEN side of the street).

Street Sweeping (May 1 - November 15)

Many neighborhoods in and near the downtown area have additional weekly restrictions from May 1 - November 15 so that the City can keep the streets free of debris. This will be several hours one weekday per week when you cannot park on a specific block. It will varies for each side of the street, and sometimes from block to block. This will be posted clearly on a sign on each block.

Rush Hour Lanes

Many main streets that run through the isthmus (like E Johnson, E Gorham, and Williamson Street) have a "rush hour" lane where you cannot park during a morning or evening commute time. This will be posted clearly on a sign on each block. The parking ticket will include the cost of towing your vehicle!

What happens if I get a ticket?

This will depend on whether you got it from the UW or the City of Madison:

Note: Tenant Resource Center does not offer counseling or legal information about parking violations.

Can I get a private, off-street parking spot?

Maybe... but you will almost certainly have to pay for it. Though downtown space is limited, some apartments have a driveway, a small parking lot in back, or even a fully covered indoor parking garage. This will vary depending on the property: Some tenants might all have "free" access to a single driveway included with rent, and they will have to communicate really well to avoid parking each other in. Other apartments might have designated spots or a parking lot with an option to sign up when they sign their lease. Sometimes if these spaces aren't claimed by tenants in the building, the landlord will rent them out to people who live elsewhere, but want a spot downtown. If your building doesn't have parking spots for rent, this would be another option.

Read your lease carefully for parking rules. Many landlords have addendums to the leases or separate agreements. You should be aware that a lease for a parking spot is a binding contract, just like a lease for an apartment! Be sure to read these rules closely.

When can a landlord ticket or tow my vehicle on private property?

As of 7/1/14, landlords will have new rights to tow unauthorized vehicles from the rental property. We are giving up to date information on our blog, with a couple of posts already explaining what is going on (click here for the first post and second post). What the landlord can do will depend on whether they post a sign prohibiting unauthorized vehicles:

  • If they properly post a sign, the landlord can immediately tow unauthorized vehicles at the owner’s expense without notice or having them ticketed, including an unfamiliar vehicle that a tenant parked legally (for example, if the tenant is given a spot to use however they want to, and a borrowed or visiting vehicle is parked there). Wis. Stats. 349.13(3)(c), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 6 Eff. 7/1/14.
  • If they don’t properly post a sign, the landlord must have the vehicle ticketed before towing at the owner’s expense. Wis. Stats. 349.13(3m)(d), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 5 Eff. 7/1/14.

"Properly posted" means there is a clearly visible notice that an area is private property, and that unauthorized vehicles may be immediately removed. Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(a)2, Wis. Stat. Trans 319.02(1).

In either case (sign or no sign), the landlord must use a towing company. Then:

  • If they didn't properly post a sign, that service must notify law enforcement of the make, model, VIN, and license plate number, or the towing service may not collect any fees. Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(d)2. 
  • If a landlord or any private property owner has properly posted signs, or gets a ticket issued, the vehicle can be immediately towed, at the vehicle owner's expense, without the towing company actually contacting the law enforcement agency about the make, model, VIN, and registration plate number of the vehicle, and the location where it was taken. The towing company only needs to make a "good faith effort" to contact the law enforcement agency, except in Milwaukee (a city of the 1st class) where they are required to notify, not just make a "good faith effort." Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(dr)2., 2015 Wis. Act 176, Section 18 Eff. 3/2/16.

If the car is stolen, the towing service may not tow it. They can impound the car until the fees are paid. If requested by a property owner or agent, or a law enforcement of traffic/parking official, the towing company must release the personal property in the vehicle during regular business hours upon presentation of proper identification. If the fees are not paid (or a written agreement entered into) within 30 days, the vehicle can be considered abandoned and disposed of. Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(dr) Eff. 7/1/14. Municipal administrative fees (if allowed) are limited to $35. Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(dm) Eff. 7/1/14.

If the property is posted, the Department of Transportation cannot determine the fees. Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(e)1. & 3.2015 Wis. Act 176, Section 19 & 20 Eff. 3/2/16. If it was properly posted, the limits on the fees the towing service can charge are as follows:

  • $150 for vehicles removed using flatbed, hook and chain, wheel-lift, boom, or other method.
  • $25/day for outdoor storage
  • $35/day for indoor storage
  • $150 for extra reasonable charges for necessary special equipment to remove or store the vehicle. This cannot include administrative fees, gate fees, lien processing fees, and other ordinary procedures. This is only allowed if one of the following applies:
    • The vehicle must be more than 10,000 lbs. or unusual in size, mechanical condition, etc. making the normal $150 charge unreasonably low.
    • The vehicle is parked in a location with unusual spatial constraints making it extra expensive to tow.
    • The vehicle had to be towed more than 20 miles, based on roundtrip mileage tracked on the odometer, in which case the towing service can charge up to $3/mile for any overage. Wis. Stat. Trans 319.03(1)

NOTE: If you park a new, borrowed, or rented vehicle on the property, or let someone else use your spot, or if there is a new manager who might not be familiar with your vehicle, contact the landlord immediately (in writing) with a detailed description of the vehicle, to avoid being towed.

What about parking in the campus lots?

Parking on UW property is extremely limited! Students who live more than one mile from a Madison Metro stop, who work regularly off campus, and/or students have special needs can apply for a small number of daytime spots. All students can apply for afternoon spots. Students with DOT disability tags can get UW DIS tags through the McBurney Disability Resource Center. Finally, some UW parking lots are free during limited evening and weekend hours. 

For more information on these options, and applications for permits, visit the UW Campus Parking website.

Mopeds and Motorcycles

Parking permits are available for both mopeds and motorcycles. Click here for more information.

Other Helpful Links

ZipCar (Madison's shared car service)

Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles

City of Madison Carpooling, Carsharing, Bikesharing Options

The laws changed in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Many factors can determine which laws apply to your situation, including when the problem occurred, when the lease was signed or renewed, and when an eviction took place. If your lease was signed or problem started before 4/18/18 you will want to carefully review the language of the law to determine if it applies to your situation.

Purple text applies to leases and events as of 12/21/11 (2011 Wis. Act 108) Summary

Orange text applies to leases and events as of 3/31/12 (2011 Wis. Act 143Summary

Green text applies to leases and events as of 3/1/14 (2013 Wis. Act 76Summary WI, Summary Dane Co.

Blue text applies to leases and events as of 11/1/15 (CR 14-038) Summary

Maroon text applies to leases and events as of 3/2/16 (2015 Wis. Act. 176) Summary

Brown text applies to leases and events as of 4/18/18 (2017 Wis. Act 317) Summary

More information on law changes is available here. Have your lease available when calling the Tenant Resource Center so we can help you know what your rights and remedies are, including whether you can request double damages, court costs and reasonable attorney fees when you sue your landlord.

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