08/14/2012 08:18 pm ET | Updated Oct 14, 2012

Top 11 South Beach Parking Tips and Mysteries

South Beach locals and the bridge-and-causeway crowd all complain about South Beach parking. After living and parking here for 12 years, here are a few secrets to make parking less painful.

  1. At $18, parking tickets cost less than the average valet charge of $20. Parking roulette at a meter without feeding it has better odds than paying and tipping valet. You also avoid valet wait time and Ferris Bueller valet thrill rides. Downside: trolling for street parking and then sweat-trekking to dinner in six inch heels.

  • Street parking went up 50 percent from $1.00/hour to $1.50/hour, outpacing inflation without leaving residents irrationally exuberant. But many covered lots are still $1.00 an hour. Park in them and pay on exit, worry-free about running back to feed the meter or tickets.
  • If you park in commercial loading zones after 6 p.m., it's free. These free-at-night parking zones used to liberally dot Collins, Washington and small streets like James. Twenty-four-hour, 15-minute loading zones have replaced them. Bummer, Miami Beach. Just a few have not been replaced, possibly overlooked by the city. I won't say where they are in case the Parking Enforcement tzars happen to read the Huffington Post, but look out for them. They're a parking "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
  • Is there any other free parking left? The lot at Monty's, also known as Miami Beach Marina, has a few covered visitor spots. A Bushwacker, a Painkiller #4, free parking and a live Bob Marley/Pitbull cover band are a winning combination. You can even leave your car there overnight if you down too many Painkillers.
  • Park at a broken meter for free. After losing a few quarters before figuring out that the meter isn't working, write a nice little explanatory note for the parking enforcer and leave it on the dashboard. Subtext: not my problem, dude! I've won this game of chicken every time. Fingers crossed that it continues.
  • Parking enforcers don't give tickets in the rain. Maybe they'd melt if wet like the Wicked Witch of the West, another parasitical profession. Maybe it's a fear of wet orange and black print rendered unreadable or wind blowing them or the tickets away, with the parking criminals kept from paying for their evil. I won't venture a guess, but I've never gotten a ticket during a storm. But watch out -- as soon as the sky clears, they're back in business.
  • Some parking mysteries still unsolved:

  • What's up with residential zone parking? I've never figured out the zones. What do the different numbers mean? How do I get one? If you don't properly scratch off the dates, is there a downside?
  • Who are the Mean Towing Fairies that Tremont pays to tip off 30 seconds after I shop at CVS and then cross the street to the Bank of America ATM? It doesn't take more than four minutes to cross Alton Road, take out $200 and return, but somehow they manage to tow a car so fast that it's like sending the money straight to them, plus the cab fare to get to the car on Bay Road. Ouch.
  • Why do some spots still sport old-school meters requiring coins or pay-by-phone parking cards, two nearly extinct species, while other spots get upgrades to credit-card machines? When will all coin meters go the way of the phone booth?
  • Biggest mystery: how do I get the secret-society decal exempting my car from all tickets and towing? It is the Illuminati or Skull and Bones of parking. I know it exists, but not how to get in. If you know, call me, maybe.
  • All the money we spend on parking ticket funds constant construction that keeps our streets nicely bumpy. You're welcome, City of Miami Beach!
  • Do you have parking tips or mysteries to share? Post them below in the comments section.