To raise revenues for parking garages and spur interest in using public transit systems, Montgomery County officials have proposed to double and in some cases triple the fees for the 14,200 public parking spaces in the Bethesda and Silver Spring business districts.
Joseph Tracy, the county's parking division chief, said officials hope that commuters faced with increasing parking costs will choose rapid rail, buses or car pools and drive less often on congested highways, such as I-270, which ends in Bethesda, and Rte. 29, which runs from northern Montgomery County to downtown Silver Spring.
At present, parking at meters in Bethesda and Silver Spring costs 15 or 25 cents an hour, depending upon a meter's maximum time.
Under the proposed fee system, based on the distance from both towns' centrally located Metro stations, parking would cost 50 cents an hour, with a maximum charge of $5 a day for areas within 1,000 feet of a Metro station. Parking in areas more than 1,000 feet from stations will cost 30 to 40 cents an hour, with a $4 maximum daily fee.
Monthly permits, which now cost $24, would not be available for areas within 1,000 feet of a Metro station, except for special Metro monthly permits at the Silver Spring Metro parking lot. In areas more than 1,000 feet from a station, they would cost $75. Monthly car-pool permits, which now cost $24 for two persons and $16 for three, will cost $75 for a minimum of three persons for areas close to a station, and $60 far from a station for a minimum of two persons.
The county is accepting public comment on the proposed fees through Jan. 15. Transportation Director Robert McGarry will make the final decision on the increase which would go into effect Feb. 15.
Among those opposed to the increases are some of the 1,800 employes of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Bethesda, said John Corley, a director of facilities and operations support there. Corley's daily parking cost of $2 will double, but he said he will continue to drive to work from his home in Wheaton.
Corley said that to use public transportation, he would have to take a bus to the Silver Spring Metro Station, ride downtown to Metro Center and back to Bethesda.