New Parking Permit System Irks Bethesda Guests

BETHESDA, Md. — Ellen Rader had gone to visit her 84-year-old aunt in Bethesda. But after delivering a hot meal and spending time with her, Rader came out to her car to find she’d been ticketed.

The problem, she said, centered on Montgomery County’s new system of digital permit parking.

Residents who want to allow visitors to park on their neighborhood streets now have to go online and provide the license plate number of the visitor’s car in advance. The system used to be paper-based.

In Rader’s case, the ticket was thrown out, but Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner’s office has received at least 30 complaints about the new system since August.

In a work session last week, Montgomery County Department of Transportation officials explained that they developed the new system to make enforcement more efficient. With digital permitting, officers don’t have to get out of their cars to check for permits; they can simply use a digital license plate reader to check for scofflaws.

County officials say they also moved to the digital system because the old paper permits were being duplicated and, in some cases, sold to people who wanted to park in neighborhoods close to Metro stations or other destinations.

But Berliner, citing complaints from residents, said, “This is a case where the cure is worse than the disease.”

Rader had also complained to Berliner.

Berliner said residents told him the digital system was less flexible, and that they had privacy concerns about giving out the license plate numbers of friends and relatives to a county agency.

Nearly all the county’s 50 communities slated to get the digital permitting are in the system now, but Berliner said he wants the problems brought up by complaining residents addressed, or else he’d urge the council to insist on returning to the paper permits.

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