Bethesda parking meters to take credit cards starting next week

Parking meters on Bethesda RowMontgomery County next week will replace the tops of all 840 on-street parking meters in Bethesda with meters that include credit card slots.

The changeover to smart parking meters is expected to start Monday morning and take about a week.

County Executive Isiah Leggett and Department of Transportation Director Art Holmes will hold a press event across the street from the Cheltenham Parking Garage on Monday afternoon to make the announcement.

The $277,200 project comes after the county tested out the smart meters in March 2012 on Norfolk Avenue.

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 smart meters also set up the possibility of demand pricing to push drivers toward less frequently used meters.

Many cities are using fluctuating parking prices to reduce circling and double parking in busier areas. 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.

A demand pricing structure for parking meters is of some interest to officials in Montgomery County, who see some downtown Bethesda garages remain mostly empty while others (think Garage 57 in Bethesda Row) are consistently crowded.

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