10 Iowa City Parking Hacks for the Penniless Hawkeye

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An arm at the dealership, a leg for insurance and another arm for gas money. Might as well sell your liver too trying to pay for parking in Iowa City. Off-street parking through an apartment complex costs $924 a year, and ramp parking is $1 an hour. Leaving your car for multiple hours three times a week adds up. So what is a poor Hawkeye to do when we need to park our cars? Here are out ten pro-tips to parking in Iowa City.

1. Free Ramps after Midnight

Sure, parking on the ramp isn’t actually that expensive, especially if you come from somewhere like Chicago where parking for longer than an hour and a half means shelling out at least $8. But money is money. Thankfully, most of the ramps in Iowa City are kind enough to waive their fees if you leave after midnight. Seriously. You can stick your card in the machine if you feel guilty, and it’ll open up for you. “Usually if I have a meeting at the [Memorial Union] that runs pretty late and the weather isn’t nice out, I’ll decide to drive and park my car in the ramp and bring some homework to study until the ramp opens,” said sophomore Wayne Mooc. “It’s kind of a motivation factor for me to actually set out some time to study.” You’ll be out a little late, but you won’t have to pay for parking.

2. Free Parking at Meters on Sundays

Solar-powered meters that happily accept credit cards litter downtown Iowa City. The only problem is, when are you ever going to find a free spot without driving around hopelessly for 15 minutes (and that’s being generous)? On Sundays. Meters are only enforced Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oh yeah, so that also means meters are free every day after 6 p.m. (perfect for some late-night studies).

3. Night/Weekend Permit

For $45 a semester, Iowa Hawkeyes can purchase a parking permit that allows them to park in any cashiered facility on campus from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The spots are also available to you all day Saturday and Sunday. “It’s helpful if you study at the library or go work out during those hours,” senior Sarah Crafton said. As long as you can figure out where to put the car between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., you can leave your car overnight without a problem.

4. Free Street Parking (when you can get it)

Believe it or not, free street parking does exist in Iowa City. If you parallel park and don’t mind getting to campus a bit earlier than usual (or don’t ind driving around in circles for a few minutes), then this option screams your name. The side of the street that’s free switch occasionally (on even days park on the left, odd on the right), but if you can find a spot, you can stay there all day. “It’s a pain having to switch your car back and forth to the opposite side of the road every day, and I usually had to walk pretty far away if I did that,” sophomore Riley Corell said. This may be a dear-god-I-need-to-park-before-class kind of option, but it’s a parking option to take advantage of as long as you leave yourself time for it.

5. EZ Park

EZ Park is a start-up student group on campus that connects people who need a place to park with students who are not currently using their parking space. “It’s like AirBNB for parking,” senior Erika Dunn said. The program was started by students in the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, so trust me, they know how annoying it is to not be able to park.

6. Nite Ride

Who even needs a car on campus when every night after 10 p.m. you can call Nite Ride to pick you up at any campus location to safely drop you to your dorm or apartment. “I work really late on weekends and sometimes it’s frightening to walk home,” junior Gabrielle Perez said. “It’s nice to have Nite Ride to drive me home…especially since I’ve been followed home more times than I can count.” Nite Ride was created as a safe solution for students to get home safely after dark, and as of this August it’s open to all students and has a mobile app to call a ride from.

7. Bus Shuttles

Some bus shuttles in Iowa City look like city buses (which cost $1), but don’t be fooled. There are a few busses that are free-ninety-nine. “Free Shuttle South stops right by my place on Dodge Street where people don’t even know buses go,” senior Hannah Gordon said. While you’re downloading that new dating app, download the Bongo app too. This app lists all the bus systems in the area, their stops and how long it’ll take for the bus to get to the stop you’re waiting at.

8. Cambus Routes

Whether you need a free ride or a job Cambus is a great resource for all students in Iowa City. The bus system driven by students runs all through campus from the dorms to the hospital and back to downtown Iowa City. “I broke my foot and rode the bionic bus for two weeks while I was on crutches, which was a huge help,” said senior Brenna Johnson, who went from riding the Cambus to driving one herself. “And driving the bionic bus really shows how many passengers we help on a daily basis who would have normally had to find alternative methods to get to places around campus.” Campus can get a little crowded, especially in the winter when it’s so cold your lungs freeze, but it’s a better alternative to walking across the river every day to get to the FieldHouse.

9. Student U-Pass

This option does cost some money, but if you live off campus it’s a parking option you can’t pass up. You only need to pay a flat fee at the beginning of the year for unlimited free rides on the city buses. As someone who lived off campus last year, I can tell you that a U-Pass is perfect for anyone needing to take the buses to their apartments. $1 a ride doesn’t sound like much until you take the bus back and forth at least twice a day. Plus, you can get on the bus to the Coralville Mall for free, so you can shop and go to the movies without worrying about parking your car.

10. Zip Cars

Say you don’t want to bring your car to school because you won’t need it regularly, but one day you realize you have free time to go home for the weekend. What can you do? Well, if you have the Zip Car app, you can book a car for anything between one hour and seven days. Pick up the car (full of gas) at a reserved parking spot and put it back when you return. Iowa City has two Zip Car spots right in front of the Burge Dorm so you can easily grab a ride whenever you need.

Megan Deppe is a junior Journalism and Cinema double major at the University of Iowa. She loves movies, which she constantly reminds people on her blog ReelTalk, and she can hold an entire conversation using nothing but Friends quotes. But she’s not a nerd- okay, that may be a lie.

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