Bethesda Street Parking Could Increase to $4 An Hour at Peak Times
Demand-based pricing plan intended to encourage residents to use garages
The hourly parking rate at meters in downtown Bethesda could nearly double to $4 an hour at busy times under a proposal from the county executive.
County Executive Marc Elrich’s budget includes a recommendation for a “demand pricing” model for parking meters in Bethesda.
The model would resemble Metro’s fare structure, which charges higher rates during rush hour periods.
The maximum rate would increase to $4 per hour, with the goal of shifting drivers to spaces in public garages and reducing traffic congestion.
Elrich has been a proponent of measures to encourage more people to use public transportation.
Drivers now pay a maximum of $2.25 per hour for on-street parking in Bethesda, $1.50 per hour for public surface lots and $1 an hour to park in most public garages, according to the county’s Department of Transportation website.
The budget also includes proposed hikes for Silver Spring on-street parking to as much as $2.25 per hour and $1.25 per hour in surface lots and parking garages. Silver Spring parking rates currently range from 70 cents per hour for garages and $1 an hour for on-street parking.
The proposal would also extend payment collection for Wheaton parking meters to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Current hours requiring payment are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on those days.
Ginanne Italiano, the CEO of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, said she is concerned about the proposed increases, and fears that it could deter people from coming downtown during peak hours.
“The price they’re bringing it up to is $4 an hour, and if people think you’re going to be charging $4 an hour to go to a movie or dinner, it’s not going to go over well with people in our community,” she said.
Italiano was scheduled to meet with Transportation Director Al Roshdieh and department staff Thursday afternoon. She said she wasn’t against the concept of demand-based pricing, but wants it to be reasonable for consumers.
“To charge $4 for that hour, yes it’s convenient and all, but that’s taking an advantage of the situation,” she said. “We want people to come into Bethesda, and we shouldn’t have to be charging astronomical rates.”
Council member Andrew Friedson, whose district includes Bethesda, said he thinks the increase to $4 is “too fast and too soon.” He added that although he is not opposed to parking rate increases in general, these types of “draconian” measures risk hurting small businesses at a time when the county’s economy is struggling.
“The question is, how do we make sure that it’s done in a transparent way and a gradual way. Doing it virtually overnight is too much and too fast for the public to understand it, and for retailers to address it,” he said.
Friedson said the council’s transportation and environment committee will be addressing the parking issue in hearings next week.
If approved by the council, the new rates would take effect July 1.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com