It's not hard to find a place to park in downtown Portland as long as you don't mind paying for the privilege. Free spaces exist in the Forest City but none of them are near the Old Port. Credit: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — Finding downtown parking in the city isn’t hard. Metered spots, garages, lots and timed spaces abound. What you won’t run across is all-day parking for nothing. That unicorn just doesn’t exist in the city center.

To avoid boots or tickets, you can feed Portland’s voracious meters the old-time way, with coins. It’s $1.75 per hour. There’s also the newfangled parking app for your smartphone or kiosks that take your credit card. Those two conveniences cost an extra quarter every time you use them.

Free, one or two-hour parking exists in Portland but there’s not much of it downtown. One place to look is right behind City Hall, on Cumberland Avenue.

The Noyes storage facility looms over a car parked on Somerset Street in Portland on Thursday. It’s free to park on Somerset all day but it’s a long walk — uphill — to downtown. Credit: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Other options for cooling your ride include city-owned parking garages. It’s $3 an hour — or $28 per day — at these public sites. But it’s $5 an hour, and $40 per day, where private companies run the lots. Privately owned garages are even more expensive.

Portland is also dotted with flat parking lots. Most are managed by Unified Parking Partners. Be careful. Some charge flat day rates, others are by the hour, and they’ll boot you if you overstay your welcome. If that happens, they’ll get you for another $40 to $70 for removal.

But don’t despair. Free parking can be found along the outskirts of downtown: on the East End, West End, waterfront and in the shadows of Interstate 295. But you’ll have to hoof your way into town, uphill, going one way or the other.

If you’re OK with that, here are five places to look for free, all-day parking, not too far from downtown.

• Deering Avenue, by Deering Oaks Park, across from King Middle School. There’s quite a few spaces around the corner, on Park Avenue, as well. It’s all uphill to Congress Street from there.

• On the West End’s Danforth Street, between Clark and State Streets. Residential side streets like Brackett, Tate and Tyng have unrestricted spots but are usually full of neighborhood cars.

• Cutter Street, below the Eastern Prom and the water side of Fore Street as it comes up the hill. Also, check Munjoy Hill’s side streets. It’s a downhill walk into the Old Port but uphill on the way back.

• Somerset Street, behind Noyes Self Storage. Beware. It floods during heavy rain and high tide.

• Motorcycle parking. Portland does not allow two-wheelers into its parking garages. Instead, the city is dotted with meterless, motorcycle-only spaces. Bikers can park for free for up to 10 hours.

For a decent list of lots and garages, see this recently updated list from the city.

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.