Parking is always a challenge in Boston, but during the week of the Democratic National Convention, a legal and affordable space will be harder to find than Bush-Cheney buttons.
There will be absolutely no parking allowed on the streets or in lots -- or, in some cases, in garages normally open to the public -- near the FleetCenter on Causeway, Merrimac, and North Washington streets.
Tentative parking restrictions are also possible miles away from the FleetCenter: on Massachusetts Avenue from the Charles River to the South End; on Boylston Street from Massachusetts Avenue to Arlington Street; on Arlington from Boylston to Beacon Street; and on Beacon from Arlington to the State House. Boston Police say they may also eliminate parking on Newbury Street, if the need arises.
Authorities say hundreds of metered parking spaces will be eliminated to allow emergency vehicles to get through Back Bay and Beacon Hill at all times, particularly during major demonstrations, and to smooth the way for shuttle buses carrying delegates between Back Bay hotels and the FleetCenter.
As a result, drivers coming into the city will find a lot fewer metered spaces, although officials can't say exactly how many.
But they say that there will be stiff enforcement of all parking rules -- don't try parking in resident-sticker zones in the South End, for example.
Private parking garages will be their usual expensive affairs -- easily costing $30 for a day. And they are bound to fill up quickly.
''We're asking folks to leave their cars at home," said Tom Timlin, deputy commissioner at the Boston Transportation Department. ''If you normally bring a car in, don't. If you keep a car in the city, we're trying to find an off-street location for you, similar to what we do during major snowstorms."
The city is negotiating with private parking facility owners for a free or reduced rate for residents during convention week.
Unfortunately, taking the T won't mean an end to the parking problem.
Most people need to drive to a transit station and park there, and many lots at commuter rail stations and major subway stations are famous for filling up by 7 a.m., sometimes earlier.
Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said that some commuter rail stations are underutilized, however.
There are 9,300 parking spaces serving the four commuter lines north of the city, and 28 percent of them are unoccupied, he said. Plus, the T is arranging for 1,750 extra spaces at the Lynn commuter rail station and the Wonderland Blue Line station in Revere.
On the South Shore, there should be spaces available at the Route 128 parking facility, and the Boston-wary motorist can also park in Hingham or Quincy and take the commuter boats into town.