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A warning about downtown parking

Olivia and Audrey and I spent a little time this afternoon at the public library grand reopening. It was fun for all, as they burned up some energy in the kids area that they otherwise would have expended at home, driving me crazy in the process. The only downer of the day was with the parking. We parked at the 1100 Smith Street garage, which was a very reasonable flat $3 fee for weekends, but almost didn’t make it out of the lot. The exits are unattended on weekends, which is fine, but the payment machines didn’t take credit cards or bills larger than $10. One poor woman had pulled over and was asking everyone if they could break a $20 – I think she finally got a taker as we were queued up.

Then it was my turn, and though I had a $5 bill, the stupid bill reader wouldn’t take it. After several failed attempts, I got out and swapped bills with the car behind me. That one still wouldn’t take, and I was contemplating how much it would cost me to just bust through the swinging arm when one last try finally worked. Oh, and it paid change in quarters; if there was ever a time to use dollar coins, this would seem to have been it, but no go.

So, my advice to you, the downtown weekend adventure seeker, is to avoid the 1100 Smith Street garage (located between Massa’s and Pappas Barbecue) like the plague. If someone from that garage reads this and is offended by my characterization, all I can say is that I’ve spelled out what you can do to make this right. All I know is I’ll be using the underground parking by Bayou Place next time. It may cost a bit more, but if so it’ll be worth it.

UPDATE: For more about the library itself, here’s Dwight’s review.

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  1. There actually is a parking garage UNDER the library, but it was full this weekend — library staff and vendors took it over. It will be open to the public starting Monday, so you can park there. Enter on the Lamar Street side.

  2. I have to say I disagree with the subject line of your email. I would expect someone of your stature to be more experienced in the art of Downtown parking. I have long grown tired of people who complain about the lack of parking opportunities Downtown. While it is definitely more difficult than pulling into your typical Houston strip center, the challenges of Downtown parking are hardly as difficult as most people would make them out to be. In short, ignorance is the main factor in preventing people from finding suitable parking in Downtown Houston. While I’l admit that it may cost you more than most public parking you find in Houston, it is entirely feasible to find cheap, if not free, parking in every part of Downtown if you know how and/or where to find it. The problem, it seems, is that people are unwilling and/or incapablable of finding it. As for the particular subject of this post, I would say that there is rarely a case in Downtown parking where you are searching for a plum spot in the immediate vacinity of where you want to go. While possible, the art of parking near your ultimate destination is definitely a skill that is Ultimately, it takes a considerable amount of patience and knowledge to master the art of parking Downtown in an affordable and equitable manner.

  3. UrbanHoustonian – I’m not exactly sure what your dispute is here. The problem wasn’t availability of parking – the 1100 Smith lot had plenty of spaces – it was a crappy customer service experience that could have been avoided in any number of ways, such as a warning as you enter the garage that only small bills (preferably new and crisp ones) will get you out of there. That’s not so much to ask, is it?

  4. Charles, frankly neither do I. I must apologize for the pompous, ignorant comment. It seems I spent a little too much time in the sun yesterday. My sincere apologies.

  5. No worries, Michael. Thanks!

  6. No worries, Michael. Thanks!