Montgomery considering Bethesda parking rate increase
The Montgomery County Council is following Transit First!'s suggestion to shift parking subsidies to restore Ride-On service. According to a Transit First! fact sheet, the Bethesda parking district raises only $8.7 million per year in fees, while spending $12.5 million. Plus, the district doesn't pay for street construction work, and the garages don't pay real estate taxes. Meanwhile, Montgomery County took $4.8 million from Ride-On in the current budget, depriving many residents of vital transit access.
The Council proposal would raise long-term parking spaces from 50¢ to 75¢ per hour, matching the price of the short-term garage spaces which would stay at 75¢ On-street spaces would rise from 75¢ to $1 per hour. Outside of parking districts, short-term spaces would rise from 60¢ to 75¢ an hour, and long-term spaces from 45¢ to 50¢. The plan would also increase Parking Convenience Sticker and carpool permit rates.
In addition, the Council is considering elminating free Ride-On service for seniors and people with disabilities, who would pay half fare instead. Kids would no longer be able to ride free after school, but could still purchase an unlimited Youth Cruiser Pass for $10/month. County employees would also no longer get free Ride-On, but would retain their discount for all transit if they give up a free parking space.
Transit First! points out that "Parking rates in Bethesda have only increased once in the last twenty years," while Metro fares increased six times. From 1989 to 2009, Metro fares have increased 47% to 94%, while Bethesda parking has only increased by 25-50%. It's time for those who drive to Bethesda to cover the costs of the garages they use, so that the County can shift its existing subsidy to much more vital transit service.
Moreover, Montgomery County should begin charging for parking on Saturday evenings in the central Bethesda garages. Currently, Bethesda's parking closest to shops and entertainment is packed on Saturday nights. The last time I was there, the Woodmont lot was completely full, and at any one time about 5 additional cars were circling to look for spaces. In the main garage inside Bethesda Row, every single floor was full. Why should people pay to reach Bethesda by bus or rail, while driving is absolutely free, despite putting more wear on the roads, taking up more space, emitting more pollution, increasing danger, and adding maintenance costs to the garages, when the trains and buses are not full but the garages are jammed?
The County Council will hold a hearing on the proposal at 7:30 pm tomorrow (Tuesday). The Council should approve the parking rate increases and add charges for Saturday evening parking at the garages in highest demand.
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