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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Some parking mysteries still unsolved:

  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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?
  11. 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.
  12. 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.