Montgomery County’s changeover to credit card-enabled on-street parking meters began Monday in Bethesda.
It’s the first step of what the county’s Department of Transportation says is a more advanced way to manage and track parking options in an area with a reputation of being difficult to park in.
The new meters include a slot for credit or debit card payment and a solar-powered battery screen that will display how much time remains at each meter.
The county installed about 160 of the meters on Monday, along the east side of Wisconsin Avenue, Cordell Avenue and Rugby Avenue. MCDOT hopes to have the smart meters installed on all 840 on-street meters in Bethesda by the end of the week.
MCDOT expects to eventually replace all on-street meters with the smart meters in its other parking districts: Silver Spring, Wheaton and Montgomery Hills. The department is also looking at upgrading meters in its lots and garages.
The entire project will cost about $750,000, including another phase that will put in-pavement sensors in each on-street space. Those sensors will allow the county to know when a space is occupied and empty, leading to a phone app to help drivers find empty spaces in real time.
“That is a real concern here in Bethesda, where we are challenged as it relates to the availability of parking spaces,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said during a Monday press event to introduce the meters. “I want to commend the Department of Transportation for their innovative approach to this. I know it will be something our residents will find helpful and convenient and I hope they will continue to work with us as we look at new and innovative approaches.”
The sensors will be installed in the next two months.
Cash keys will no longer be accepted at the smart meters, but will continue to work in parking lots and garages. People who no longer want cash keys can trade the keys in for a card of equal value that will work in the smart meter credit card reader.
Those exchanges can be made at the Bethesda Parking Store (4720 Chelthenham Dr.).