Parking in Madison

Where Can I Park?

Street Parking / Public Parking

Most of the street parking spots near campus have parking meters. Parking meter time limits range from 25 minutes to 3 hours; almost all charge a rate of $2.00 per hour. (There are a few 10-hour "Park & Walk" spots near campus with a reduced rate of $1.10/hour.) Many of the new developments on campus and the Isthmus have parking garages, but their rates and restrictions are variable.

There are free street parking spots in downtown. They generally come with a 2-hour time limit unless you have a neighborhood permit. In neighborhoods that are not immediately downtown (like much of the Vilas, Tenney, and Willy Street neighborhoods), people can park for free on the street for up to 48 hours at a time. Many of the unmetered spots throughout the City have rush hour, seasonal, or other restrictions, so be on the lookout for those. Tickets for parking violations can range from $25 to $100 or more if the vehicle is towed.

People with disabilities can find accessible parking spots in all City lots and garages, as well as on some streets with un-metered parking. Visit the City's website for details.

Residential Parking Permits

Most downtown residents can apply for a Residential Parking Permit from the City of Madison for $42 per year. This permit lets a resident park in the unmetered 2-hour spots on the streets in their neighborhood for up to 48 hours at a time. 

Tenants should watch out, though. Some buildings do not qualify their residents for permits! Tenants, look over this list of ineligible addresses before you rent. If your (prospective) 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.  Madison landlords who rent these units are not required to tell tenants about this when they sign their lease! For this reason, it is especially important that tenants check the eligibility of a unit when applying for an apartment and deciding whether or not to bring a car when moving. 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 2

Seasonal Restrictions

Winter Parking (November 15 - March 15)

Winter parking rules are in effect from November 15 through March 15 so that the City can plow the streets. Alternate side parking is in effect City-wide with the exception of the Snow Emergency Zones. This exception is lifted in the event the City declares a Snow Emergency. The Snow Emergency status is published daily on the Madison Streets Division website. (Folks can sign up for text and email alerts through the link).

Alternate Side Parking requires that people park between the hours of 1 and 7am on the even house-numbered side of the street on even numbered days 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, residents should plan their parking for the following day. If, for example, the City declares a snow emergency at 8:30pm on December 1st, a resident should park on the even side of the street that night. Tickets for violating alternate side parking range from $20 (non-snow emergency, outside the Snow Emergency Zone) to $60 plus a $65 towing fee (during a snow emergency, all areas). For more information, visit the Winter Parking website.

Street Sweeping (May 1 - November 15)

Many neighborhoods in and near the downtown area have additional weekly restrictions from May 1 through November 15 so that the City can clean the roads. Street sweeping is conducted on a rolling schedule.  On a given day of the week, there will be a few hours where parking on a given number of blocks will be restricted.  Each affected block will have a clearly posted sign stating for which day and hours parking is restricted for the purpose of street cleaning.

Rush Hour Lanes

Many of the thoroughfares that cross the Isthmus (like E Johnson, E Gorham, and Williamson Street) have a rush hour lane for which parking will be restricted during morning or evening commute times. Each block subject to rush hour parking restrictions will have signage posted with the times during which vehicles parked in the rush hour lane will be ticketed and towed.  So yes, the parking ticket will include the cost of towing a vehicle!

Read Parking Signs Closely

There are lots of spots around the City with special exceptions to normal parking rules. These exceptions include loading zones, taxi stands, special event parking, bike parking restrictions, and many more. Before leaving a vehicle, people should be sure to check their surroundings for any applicable parking signs.

What Can I Do if I Get a Ticket?

The options available to you depend upon whether you received a citation from either the University or the City of Madison. If you currently have a ticket, please check who issued it and then consult the appropriate site:

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

Can A Tenant Get a Private, Off-Street Parking Spot?

It’s possible, though doing so will most likely be determined by the apartment a tenant rents. Some apartments might have a driveway, a small parking lot, or an indoor parking garage. Generally speaking, if a tenant's apartment comes with an area for parking, the lease will contain provisions governing the use of that area. Tenants, read your lease carefully for parking rules. A lease for a parking spot is a binding contract just like a lease for an apartment!

Can my Landlord Ticket or Tow my Vehicle?

Yes, landlords may have unauthorized vehicles ticketed and/or towed. Unauthorized vehicles are those which are parked contrary to Wis. Stat. 346.55 (4)Wis. Stat. 349.137(1)(e). Basically, a landlord (or any property owner) may restrict or prohibit parking provided the landlord has posted on the property a sign which indicates for whom parking is permitted, restricted, or prohibited.  It is VERY IMPORTANT to note that the exercise of these parking restrictions operate in part on the landlord’s beliefs and/or knowledge about a given vehicle and whether or not it is authorized.

If the landlord has properly posted parking signs on the property, the landlord may immediately have the unauthorized vehicle towed at the owner’s expense without notice or having the car ticketed Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(a)2, Wis. Stats. 349.13(3)(c), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 6. Now, if the landlord has not properly posted parking signs, the landlord may NOT immediately have the unauthorized vehicle towed.  Instead, the landlord must first have the vehicle ticketed Wis. Stats. 349.13(3m)(d), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 5

Let’s say a tenant takes their car to the mechanic, and the mechanic says they need to hang on to it for a few days. The mechanic gives the tenant a courtesy car free-of-charge. The tenant drives home and parks only to discover sometime later the courtesy car has been towed. How horrible! The landlord is within their rights to do this even if the tenant's lease says that they can do what they would like (within reason) with their parking space. The landlord does not know that the courtesy car is (temporarily) the tenant's. So, the landlord might be thinking they’re doing their tenant a favor by having the car towed. Tenants, if you ever park a new, borrowed, or rented vehicle on the property, let someone else use your spot, or have a new property 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.

At any time a landlord wants to have an unauthorized vehicle removed, they must use a towing company to do so Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(d)1. And, before the towing company removes any vehicle, it must make a good faith effort to contact law enforcement to notify them of the vehicle’s make, model, vehicle identification and registration numbers, and location from where it was taken. Failure to make a good faith effort will mean that the towing company may not collect any charges or fees Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(d)2.

Those fees and charges include costs associated with the removal and storage, if applicable, of the unauthorized vehicle Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(d)3. (There might also be instances in which the municipality has the towing company charge the vehicle owner $35, which is to be paid to the municipality Wis. Stat. 349.13(3m)(dm).) Until the charges for removal and storage are paid, a towing company may impound any removed vehicle. If 30 days pass since a vehicle was impounded and either the charges remain unpaid or no written repayment agreement has been reached, the vehicle can be considered abandoned and disposed of Wis. Stat. 349.13 (5)(b)4. If a tenant finds themselves in a situation where they’ll be unable to pay the impound lot charges, they can still try to get any personal belongings left in their vehicle. Tenants can ask their landlord or law enforcement to request that the towing company release their personal items to them. The company must comply Wis. Stat. 349.13 (5)(b)2). Even though the towing company can charge the owner of a towed vehicle for removal and storage costs, those charges are not to exceed any of the following limits: 

  • $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).

Should I Bring a Car to UW Madison?

UW Madison strongly advises that students do not bring cars with them to campus. Instead, the University suggests that students travel around campus by walking, biking, or riding the bus. There is very little parking available on campus and what is there can be expensive.

It is safe, easy, and fun to ride your bike in Madison. The City is a platinum level "Bike Friendly City" according to the League of American Bicyclists and UW-Madison is a gold level campus.

If you’re new to biking and worried about the learning curve, Bike Madison has great resources on safety, bike paths, and other commuter tips. Also, the UW Madison Bicycle Resource Center has clinics for students on bicycle mechanics and maintenance. Many of the local bike shops also sell used bikes, meaning that you can try out a cheaper bike to see if it’s for you before really committing yourself (and your money).

Regardless of how you feel about walking or biking, there will come a cold winter day when you just do not want to spend that much time outside.  How do you get around campus then?  If you don’t want to cab or rideshare, UW Madison offers its students an ASM Bus Pass for free public transportation throughout the City. Metro Transit has an app that can be used to plan routes to and from campus. (Also, all Madison Metro buses have a "rack and ride" option so you can even combine biking and bussing.  And, last thing on biking, check out the Bicycle Benefits program.)

But What About the Campus Lots?

Parking spaces at UW are scarce! Students who live more than one mile from a Madison Metro stop, who work regularly off campus, and/or who have special needs can apply for a small number of daytime spots. All students can apply for afternoon spots. Students with Department of Transportation 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.

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