Drivers looking for a place to park near Bethesda could soon be using the latest parking technology to pay for their space.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed using slightly more than $227,200 to replace the existing on-street parking meters in the Bethesda area with smart meters, allowing drivers to use credit and debit cards at machines and pay online for parking spaces.
If approved by the County Council, the meters could be installed beginning on July 1, said Rick Siebert, the chief of the Division of Parking Management.
County spokeswoman Esther Bowring said the county hopes to replace all older-model meters with the enhanced smart meters over the next five years. That will cost about $1.5 million. The only other smart meters in the county are part of a pilot program in Bethesda.
The newly installed smart meters are expected to generate about $300,000 over the fiscal year. Revenue raised from parking meters should even out the costs of the new installation, she said.
The pilot program showed new meters could also raise about 14 percent more revenue than the old meters because customers find it easier to pay with credit and debit cards with the new system, Bowring said.
The success of the pilot program prompted the decision to switch all existing meters to smart meters, Siebert said. The county installed 10 meters developed by San Diego-based IPS Group in the Woodmont Triangle area of Bethesda for four months.
"People loved them," Siebert said of the pilot meters. "We didn't get any kind of negative feedback from them. ... They were very reliable, very easy to use, and people understood how to use them."
Bethesda was the first of the county's three parking districts to receive a meter makeover because the area's meters see the most use.
Along with having more capabilities, the new meters are expected to save the parking division time and energy. They new units use solar energy as opposed to batteries, and each is installed with a wireless signal that alerts county employees when a station is malfunctioning. Parking officers will no longer have to check batteries every six months, and they will know immediately when one is broken.