Council Debates Higher Street Parking Rates in Bethesda, Silver Spring

Council Debates Higher Street Parking Rates in Bethesda, Silver Spring

Proposal would push cost to $4 an hour

| Published:

Dan Schere

Members of the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee don’t agree on whether to increase the ceiling for on-street parking to $4 per hour.

County Executive Marc Elrich has proposed a demand-pricing model for parking meters in downtown Bethesda under which users would be charged higher rates at busy times of the day. The goal is to reduce traffic congestion and shift the volume of parking from the streets to garages. Currently, on-street meters in Bethesda charge users $2 per hour, with most garages costing $1 per hour.

Council member Andrew Friedson, whose district includes Bethesda, said businesses have reacted negatively to the proposal. Motorists who pay parking meters using a mobile app on their phone, instead of feeding coins into the meter, could be in for a rude awakening, he said.

“The person charged that 78% increase is not gonna find out until they look at their app,” he said.

Committee chairman Tom Hucker questioned the label of the hikes as “revenue neutral” and wondered whether customers would complain about the increased rates.

During a committee meeting Thursday, Transportation Director Al Roshdieh explained that the goal of the demand pricing isn’t to raise revenue, but improve the quality of life for businesses by reducing street congestion.

“If the businesses in Bethesda are interested, this is the solution,” he said.

Council member Hans Riemer said he agreed that freeing up spaces in front of businesses would be positive, particularly for customers who need to quickly dash in and out of businesses, and would be able to save time by parking on the street for a few minutes.

“Otherwise they’re gonna go to Westfield Montgomery [mall],” he said.

Elrich’s proposed rate hikes also include increasing on-street parking in Silver Spring to a maximum of $2.25 per hour, and the price of parking in a garage or surface lot to $1.25 per hour. Drivers currently pay $2 per hour for on-street parking and 80 cents per hour for garages.

Hucker, whose district includes Silver Spring, said he is similarly worried about the effect this could have on business in his district.

“To me, given all the national challenges that retailers are facing and the specific local challenges in Silver Spring, I don’t think it’s time to add more misery,” he said.

Hucker said at the very least, the county should first hold a public meeting in downtown Silver Spring with retailers and the general public.

“I don’t think the way to do it is jamming it through a morning meeting on the budget,” he said.

Roshdieh again emphasized the rationale behind the hikes.

“Our intention is not to raise revenue in Silver Spring or Bethesda. If you don’t want to do this, fine. The idea was to help businesses,” he said.

The committee is scheduled to revisit the parking rate issue at its May 2 meeting. The full council will approve its marked up budget in late May.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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