Parking meters may be coming to Friendship Heights

The  2-hour parking limit on Friendship Boulevard isn't enforced, but could be if  parking meters are added

Curbside parking meters may be coming to three roads in the Friendship Heights section of Chevy Chase.

Ken Hartman, Montgomery County government’s point person in Bethesda, outlined a preliminary plan for the meters along Wisconsin Avenue, Friendship Boulevard and Willard Avenue during a monthly advisory board meeting on Monday.

Hartman and a representative of the property owner that asked for the meters gave a long list of reasons for the proposal — including pedestrian safety, boosting the finances of the local Transportation Management District and preventing the type of robberies that have happened in the area’s ultra-pricey shopping areas.

On Tuesday, a Department of Transportation spokesperson said specific locations, hours and rates are still under consideration, though Hartman said the meters would operate much like the ones in downtown Bethesda.

DOT spokesperson Esther Bowring said the department isn’t yet sure if meters will be installed or how many would be put in. There is no timeline for installation yet and Hartman is looking for comments regarding the proposal.

Hartman said the current plan is to put meters on the west side of Friendship Boulevard, between Western Avenue and Willard Avenue, on the south side of Willard Avenue, between Friendship Boulevard and North Park Avenue and on both sides of Wisconsin Avenue between Somerset Terrace and Wisconsin Circle.

The Friendship Boulevard and Willard Avenue meters would allow up to four hours of parking. The Wisconsin Avenue meters would allow for up to two hours of parking. The meters would run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, except nobody would be allowed to park at the Wisconsin Avenue meters during rush hour periods.

The meters would cost $2 per hour, the same as in downtown Bethesda.

The Chevy Chase Land Company, which owns most of the retail property on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights, asked for the county to consider parking meters on the street in a letter last year.

Miti Figueredo, vice president of public affairs at the Land Company, said on Monday the idea sprouted from conversations with security guards after the April 2013 smash-and-grab at the Cartier store (5471 Wisconsin Ave.).

Proposed locations of curbside parking meters in Friendship  Heights, via Google MapsAccording to Figueredo, the security guards (many who operate in stores as off-duty police officers) said one reason the stores are a target was because thieves can easily pull up to the curb, steal items and drive off.

“It makes it really easy for people to just block that travel lane and run directly into the store,” Figueredo said. “We started thinking about it more broadly, and thought about how meters might also improve pedestrian safety. One of the easiest and most low-cost things you can do to improve pedestrian safety is to lower the speed of traffic on Wisconsin Avenue.”

Figueredo also said the Land Company is interested in the idea because curbside parking meters typically mean more customer turnover in those parking spots.

Hartman said the installation of meters could encourage Montgomery County to fund enforcement. There are currently no streetside meters in Friendship Heights. Despite a number of curbside parking zones with two-hour limits, those limits aren’t enforced.

“Putting meters along these roads would essentially be a reason for them to contract with enforcement folks,” Hartman said. “Technically, if somebody’s lucky enough they can park all day in Friendship Heights for free.”

It would also mean some revenue for the Friendship Heights Transportation Management District, a group that encourages the use of transit and alternative commuting options. It’s not yet clear how much revenue would be generated.

Among the issues Hartman identified with the proposal were the frequent medical drop-offs on the southbound side of Wisconsin Avenue. It’s common for drivers to drop off and pick up elderly clients of a medical office on Wisconsin Avenue. By law, those drivers are allowed to park in front of the building for up to 15 minutes with their flashers on.

Hartman said the county is looking at carving out sufficient space so those drop-offs can continue.

Map via Google Maps

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