Bethesda to install credit card parking meters

Here\'s what one of the parking meters in Bethesda, Md. looks like. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

Jamie Slater, special to

WASHINGTON — Rustling around to find change or the hassle of setting up a smartphone account can make downtown parking a bigger headache than it’s worth. Starting this week, though, Bethesda, Md. will replace all 840 of its on-street parking meters with “smart” technology that allows for credit card payment.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced the new plan Monday afternoon.

The meters should be installed within a week, weather permitting. Only the tops of the meters will be replaced, as the poles and the lower part of the meter head will remain.

The meters will now accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards, but they will continue to accept coins and pay-by-cell phone. According to Montgomery County representatives, the highest level of security will be used for credit card processing.

“Information the meter [displays] is parking rates, hours and days when payment is required,” Leggett said on Monday. The brightly lit, solar-powered displays will also display the time remaining.

Additionally, the smart meters will allow for real-time communication to help identify broken meters more quickly.

Monday’s announcement is the result of a successful pilot project using 41 smart meters conducted by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). Bethesda will lead the way for Montgomery County, as, eventually, MCDOT expects to replace the meters in Silver Spring, Wheaton and Montgomery Hills as well.

The smart meters will soon be used in conjunction with in-pavement sensors to help drivers find unoccupied spots. “Later this year, residents will be able to use an app to find available street parking spaces and that is a real concern here in Bethesda,” Leggett said.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

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