County Councilmember Roger Berliner told a Citizens Advisory Board on Monday that he sees recent changes in Bethesda’s parking fee structure as a move toward the demand pricing that cities are using to reduce circling and double parking in busier areas.
The County Council approved the County Department of Transportation’s recommendation for the new parking fee structure in the FY14 operating budget. The new system will make on-street meter parking $2 an hour, parking lot spaces $1.25 an hour and parking garage spaces 80 cents an hour starting July 1.
Existing rates are $1.25 an hour for any parking space up to four hours and 80 cents an hour for any long-term parking in excess of four hours. Parking garage spaces have been found to be the least desireable, depending on the location and time of day, with empty spaces common in some Bethesda county garages (11 and 35 for instance).
On the other side of the coin, finding a spot in Garage 40 during happy hour on Cordell Avenue or in Garage 35 as residents in Battery Lane apartment buildings return from work can be more difficult. The Lot 31 closure has also put the squeeze on Garage 57, where the bulk of Bethesda Row shop, restaurant and movie-goers park.
“We are inching towards what is called demand pricing,” Berliner told the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board, “higher pricing for parking that is most in demand. So what is most in demand is street parking next to our shops.”
In San Francisco, which many point to as a pioneer of demand pricing, meter pricing can range from between 25 cents an hour to a maximum of $6 an hour, all depending on the amount of cars parked in a particular stretch. The city uses sensors to gauge how many parking meters are being used and will raise the rates on busy streets to try to ensure at least one space is open.
The goal is to reduce circling and double parking that leads to traffic. Montgomery County’s goal is to get more drivers parking in its garages instead of its street-metered spaces.
All indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities will be open and county liquor stores will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some Montgomery Parks will be open, but check the Montgomery Parks website for specific schedules.
County offices, libraries, senior centers and community recreation centers will be closed. So will the Gaithersburg Transfer Station, TRiPS Commuter Stores in Silver Spring and Friendship Heights, MCPS and State offices and courts.
Trash and recycling collection will be provided one day later than regularly scheduled for the rest of the week. Parking at public garages, lots and curbside meters will be free.
Ride On, Metrobus and Metrorail will all run on Sunday schedules.
Flickr photo by davidyuweb
Everyone is looking to increase their marketability these days and there are plenty of drivers in the public parking garage at Bethesda Row. So Montgomery County today announced it will place ads in the garage to gauge revenue potential.
The six-month pilot program will test “ad-based marketing opportunities,” in four county garages, including Garage 57 at Bethesda Row, Garage 11 at 7730 Woodmont Ave. and two garages in Silver Spring.
The county’s Department of Transportation Division of Parking Management will post the ads by early June, according to a press release. The test will help parking officials figure out how much money they can make from the ads, what sizes and type of ads work for businesses and ways to make sure the ads don’t block garage signage and instructions.
The county will use RMR Outdoor to manage the ads. For more info, visit the Division of Parking Management’s website.
The county today announced an online purchasing option for all monthly Parking Convenience Stickers, known as PCS permits, and AM/PM permits for parking in non-metered spaces from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m.
That means you won’t have to head to the Cheltenham Drive garage office for a new sticker each month.
The county will mail the permits out. You can still visit the Cheltenham parking office to get permits right away.
For more information on the county’s permit system, visit the county’s parking management website.
The Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee this morning ran through a number of changes proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) for parking rates in his recommended budget. The Committee also took a stand against Leggett’s recommended six-month delay of the Bethesda Metro South Entrance project.
The Committee agreed to support the Department of Transportation’s recommended change of how drivers pay parking rates in the Bethesda Parking Lot District.
The new system would make on-street meter parking $2 an hour, parking lot spaces $1.25 an hour and parking garage spaces 80 cents an hour. Existing rates are $1.25 an hour for any parking space up to four hours and 80 cents an hour for any long-term parking in excess of four hours.
Council staff transportation expert Glenn Orlin said the new system would mean most people would pay more, some would pay less and every-day commuters and residents who buy monthly passes would feel little effect. Those rates won’t change.
Also included in the FY14 Transportation budget is a permanent expansion of last year’s four-month “smart-meter” pilot program. About $280,000 would be dedicated for the replacement of existing on-street parking meters with Single Space Smart Meters, which allow drivers to use their credit and debit cards at the machines and see parking rates, hours and time limits on an illuminated display.
Also in the budget is the installation of about 90 parking meters along the south side of Cedar Lane between Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike. The meters, which would border NIH, were in last year’s budget but DOT did not follow through because of the opposition it faced from residents on Chevy Chase Drive once parking meter installation began there.
A parking security guard noticed this in one of Montgomery County’s Woodmont Avenue parking garages this morning.
A supervisor for the security service that patrols the Bethesda Parking Lot District said one his employees saw the markings, on the inside of the 2nd floor stairwell at the 8614 Woodmont Ave. Garage, a little before 10 a.m.
He said it’s not uncommon for graffiti or car break-ins to pick up when the weather gets warmer. Police were called to the scene this morning. Looks like a fresh coat of orange paint is in order.
The Town of Chevy Chase is hoping to take downtown Bethesda traffic-avoiding measures into its own hands with a Town-funded shuttle service, but a requirement that those shuttles be Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant has complicated matters.
The original plan was for the Town to come up with a system of about 10 stops, including stops at the Lawton Community Center, other corners in the Town, in front of the Barnes & Noble on Bethesda Row and near the Bethesda Metro station, for Rockville-based transportation service RMA to service for a four-hour period.
The exact route, time of day the shuttle would run and other details still must be worked out, either before or at a Public Hearing the Town hopes to hold in June.
But in last night’s Council discussion of the project, Town manager Todd Hoffman advised members of a bigger hurdle.
In order to be ADA compliant, the Town must either lease shuttles that can accomodate those in wheelchairs — shuttles that might be bigger than necessary — or effectively purchase the shuttles for their own use at a cost of approximately $300,000 each.
RMA, the same company that provides shuttle service for the Bethesda Urban Partnership’s Bethesda Circulator and for a Friendship Heights shuttle, offered the Town a two-month trial period with the ADA-compliant shuttles. But Hoffman said the Town would then have to enter into a five-year commitment with the vendor to continue the service.
The Council and Hoffman had earlier suggested a four- to six-month pilot program in which the Town could gauge interest. The idea came from Chevy Chase At Home’s Naomi Kaminsky, who originally thought the shuttle would be vital for Town seniors who hoped to get from the area to shopping and the Metro in downtown Bethesda.
Kaminsky said on Wednesday that since proposing the shuttle, Town residents from different age groups and with different needs expressed interest in it. Some would like to use the shuttle to commute to and from the Town in rush hour. Some would like it for evening hours to avoid the parking crush at Bethesda Row.
Whatever the case, Kaminsky said it’s clear many in the Town are tired of dealing with downtown Bethesda traffic.
Al Lang, a councilmember who worked with the Town’s Public Service Committee on the proposal, suggested a route that includes a stop near the CVS and Safeway at Arlington Road and Bradley Boulevard.
Hoffman said the four-hour option from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. would cost $76.50 an hour yearly. Hoffman will research other potential shuttle vendors and options before the Public Hearing. Next month, the Council hopes to finalize two or three routes to present to the public.
Photo via Friendship Heights Village Council
County parking garages are not immune to thefts from vehicles, as some found out two weeks ago in downtown Bethesda:
Three thefts from vehicles were reported between Thursday, 3/21 and Saturday, 3/23 involving vehicles parked in county garages/lots on Wisconsin Avenue, Woodmont Avenue and Arlington Road in Bethesda. Forced entry in one instance; the others were entered without any signs of force. Items taken included a laptop, GPS, clothing, and checks.
The rest of the most recent Bethesda District crime summary is after the jump.
Lately, springtime in Montgomery County has usually meant debate on raising parking rates in downtown Bethesda.
This budget season will be no different, but this time around County Executive Isiah Leggett is seeking more parking revenue through a revised rate structure, not the straight up increases of past years.
Leggett’s FY 14 budget proposal for the Bethesda Parking Lot District (PLD) would make on-street meter parking $2 an hour, parking lot spaces $1.25 an hour and parking garage spaces 80 cents an hour. Existing rates are $1.25 an hour for any parking space up to four hours and 80 cents an hour for any long-term parking in excess of four hours.
If approved by the County Council, which will introduce the changes this morning, the new rate structure would take effect on July 1.
Bethesda business leaders unsuccessfully argued against parking rate increases in each of the last two years, arguing the increases would discourage customers from coming to the area. They also argued that any extra revenue would not help plug county budget deficits since all PLD revenue goes to parking improvements or to the Bethesda Urban Partnership, the county-funded Business Improvement District in charge of maintaining and marketing downtown Bethesda.
In 2011, the county raised long-term parking rates for more than three hours of parking from 65 cents to 75 cents an hour against the wishes of the business community. County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) said the increase was necessary to fund the PLD’s reserves with the coming construction of the Lot 31 underground garage, then estimated at $86 million.
In 2012, the county raised parking rates at on-street, lot and garage meters to $1.25 an hour for short-term parking of up to four hours and up to 80 cents an hour for long-term parking of more than four hours. Monthly parking passes were also increased to $150 a month. Leggett proposed no bump this year for monthly passes.
Unlike in past years, the county has not proposed a Saturday rate. Parking is now free in county garages and lots on the weekend and at on-street parking meters on Sunday.
Leggett’s recommended FY 14 budget includes the expansion of a pilot smart meter program to all on-street spaces.
In the past, county leaders have argued the increases are meant to encourage people to ditch their cars without making them too much of a burden for those who will drive.
The Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes on Tuesday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m. Berliner’s Transportation & Environment Committee will review the changes and likely make recommendations to the full Council at its budget worksession scheduled for April 26.
State Senate Could Wrap Up Transportation Bill Today or Tomorrow — A State Senate Committee on Thursday sent a bill that would raise gas taxes to fund transportation projects such as the Purple Line to the full Senate. A vote could come today or tomorrow. The Committee also added a second lockbox bill that would make it harder for General Assembly leaders to use the money raised for other purposes. [Washington Post]
Pay by Cell! Program Makes Up 15 Percent Of County Parking Revenue — The Pay By Cell! phone application the county employs at downtown parking meters and in garages has seen 97,000 transactions at 12,000 meters in Bethesda Silver Spring, Wheaton, Montgomery Hills and North Bethesda. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center]
Bethesda Cares To Celebrate 25 Years — The nonprofit, based in the first floor of Parking Garage 11 on Woodmont Avenue, provides clothing, food and tries to place some of the most vulnerable homeless people in Bethesda into housing programs. [Bethesda Cares]
Check Our Event Calendar — There are plenty of food specials, art galleries, educational events and others being submitted every day. [Event Calendar]
Montgomery County Department of Transportation officials hope to the success of a four-month “smart” parking meter pilot last year means money in the budget to install the meters permanently throughout downtown Bethesda.
County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed FY 14 Operating Budget includes $277,200 for the replacement of existing on-street parking meters with Single Space Smart Meters, the same kind the county tested out starting last March on Norfolk Avenue between Woodmont and Del Ray Avenues.
The meters, from San Diego-based IPS Group, allow drivers to use their credit and debit cards at the machines and see parking rates, hours and time limits on an illuminated display.
The meters use a solar-powered battery and will display how much time remains when a driver pays by cell phone. Drivers now must rely on their cell phones to know how much time remains if they pay through the county-chosen pay by cell phone application.
The meters could also allow the county “the opportunity for future advances in performance pricing of parking based on demonstrated demand,” according to the Parking District Services Budget Overview.
The total recommended FY 14 Operating Budget for the Parking Districts Funds is $25,856,395, an increase of $425,638 or 1.7 percent form last year’s approved total.
Parking fees in downtown Bethesda range from 85 cents to $1.25 per hour and much of the revenue goes toward funding the Bethesda Urban Partnership, responsible for maintaining and marketing downtown Bethesda.
It also asks something that if proposed, might stir up some passionate opposition: Would you be willing to pay for public parking garage use on weekends?
It would add more revenue to the county’s coffers and could theoretically give the BUP more funding to market and maintain the Central Business District. The majority of the BUP’s funding comes from parking revenues and a special Urban District Tax on downtown Bethesda businesses.
The survey also asks about the availability of parking options and pricing of public parking fees, which range from 85 cents to $1.25 per hour.
It asks about interest in the BUP’s Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that connects riders in Woodmont Triangle and Bethesda Row to the Bethesda Metro station and other. There are questions about dining options, shopping options and a question that asks if entertainment options are “geared towards limited age groups.”
Finally, the survey asks: If you had the opportunity to make one improvement to downtown Bethesda, what would it be?
Montgomery County wants to opt out of a recent state trespass towing law officials say confuses its already stringent regulations against the practice.
But Eric Friedman, director of the county’s Office of Consumer Protection, told a County Council Committee today the state legislator who sponsored the law seems unwilling to allow the county to operate on its own. A towing company recently sued the county and the state for two provisions of the state law, which went into effect on Oct. 1.
“It’s very difficult to know which provisions are in,” Friedman said. “We have this somewhat overlapping, two-tiered system.”
Friedman said one particular problem that has popped up is an extra fee towing companies can now charge to deal with the state’s requirement to send a notice of a tow to a driver and a driver’s insurance company. Often, Friedman said, the towers will send the notice regardless of if the driver has already come to the tow lot to pick up the car.
The lawsuit against the state and county challenges the three-day rule and the state’s ban of “spotters” despite requiring towers to take photographs of people who “walk-off” from the private property their vehicles are in.
Friedman said towers often will tow a driver who briefly walks away from the business that owns the parking spot, whether it’s to send a letter, grab a slice of pizza or enter another store in the same shopping center.
Towing complaints remain the Office of Consumer Protection’s most common, with about 200 complaints a year, Friedman said. He estimated there are about 30,000 trespass tows every year in Montgomery County.
Friedman said State Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Prince George’s County) was not very open to granting Montgomery County a waiver from the law, but that Niemann plans to tighten the three-day notice provision.
Eric Friedman, director of the county’s Office of Consumer Protection, has been a leading advocate against the practice of predatory towing — in which tow companies aggressively and in some cases illegally tow cars in private commercial lots to boost revenue.
But since a new Maryland law curbing the practice went into effect on Oct. 1, there’s been confusion about how Montgomery County’s already stringent regulations are affected. Many parts of the state’s law were already in place in Montgomery County.
The county has asked the state for permission to allow its existing laws to apply rather than the new state law, according to a County Council press release today.
The Public Safety Committee, which includes Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac), will hear from Friedman on Thursday morning. One effect of the new state law is a lawsuit from a local towing company against both the state and county, an issue that could come up during tomorrow’s session.
Police Investigate Graffiti Swastika on Capital Crescent Trail — Somebody spraypainted a swastika with the message “You Shall” on the Capital Crescent Trail near Elm Street. It has been removed by Bethesda Urban Partnership workers. [Bethesda Patch]
North Bethesda Parking Rate Hike Goes Into Effect Today — Montgomery County parking rate increases for Silver Spring and North Bethesda go into effect today. Drivers who park at meters in North Bethesda/White Flint will pay $1 an hour for short-term parking, up from 75 cents an hour. Monthly parking permits are now $123, up from $113. [WTOP]
Bradley Hills Parents Want More Security — Parents of students at a temporary holding location for Bradley Hills Elementary School sent a letter to MCPS superintendent Josh Starr demanding security improvements, such as locked front doors, be made immediately. An MCPS spokesman said some of the security procedures are already in place. [The Gazette]