It likely will get more expensive to park in Montgomery County's shopping hubs in coming months.
A County Council panel on Wednesday recommended increasing both long- and short-term parking rates in Bethesda, Silver Spring and other urban areas. Transportation officials said lower-than-expected use required an injection of money to keep the lots and garages running.
"The fiscal health of all the [parking districts] is poor and getting poorer," said Glenn Orlin, the council's deputy staff director.
But it wasn't just a lack of use that prompted the push for higher parking rates. Newer technologies that recently have helped drivers pay by phone or specify certain times for parking led to a reduction in tickets -- and money generated by the very parking districts now short on funds.
In the Bethesda parking district, the recommendation by the council committee would raise the fee for long-term parking from 75 cents to 80 cents an hour, the monthly pass from $140 to $150, and the short-term rate from $1 to $1.25 an hour.
In the Silver Spring district, long-term parking would climb from 60 cents to 65 cents an hour, the monthly pass from $113 to $123 and the short-term rate would rise from 75 cents to $1 per hour.
If passed, the long-term rates would be cheaper than those recommended by County Executive Ike Leggett -- a compromise pushed by local chambers of commerce, which were against raising the parking rates at all.
"The Bethesda area, just like everywhere else in the county, is still struggling to recover from the economic downturn, and those working in and visiting Bethesda should not have to pay significantly higher rates to park than elsewhere in the county," said Heather Dlhopolsky, of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.
Though prices would stay the same in Wheaton, the parking enforcement hours would extend until 10 p.m.
And while parking likely will become pricier in the wealthy Washington suburbs, lawmakers acknowledged keeping multiple cars was becoming less practical.
"If people are moving into that area, hoping to have a two-car lifestyle, it's going to be difficult," said Councilman Hans Riemer, D-at large, of the increasingly condo- and high-rise-dependent Silver Spring.
And when compared with parking rates offered to major corporations like Discovery Communications, residents would be paying roughly $40 more per parking spot a month than the price offered to the corporate titan -- even at a reduced residential rate being considered for certain Silver Spring residents.
"That's not going to go well [with residents]" said Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large, of the discrepancy.