Three New Parking Lot Issues

On March 11, 2012, in News, Transit, by Brian Savoie

Recently, parking has been on the mind of many of the residents in the South Silver Spring neighborhood.  We have witnessed the opening of a new parking garage under the Galaxy development, SSSNA hosted a meeting on increased parking fees at county garages, and news came out this week that the county plans to lease a section of the Kennett Street Garage for the exclusive use of Discovery Communications.

On January 30th, the SSSNA hosted a meeting where the main topic on the agenda was the the increased fees for parking in the county managed parking facilities in Silver Spring.  The cost of a monthly PCS sticker has increased from $95 to $113 in January of 2012.  Glenn Orlin of the county council transportation staff and Rick Seibert, Chief of the Division of Parking Management, provided an informational presentation about the justification for the change.  While Councilmembers Ervin and Leventhal, were in attendance to hear the concerns of the community.

Less than 6 weeks after this meeting, a notice began circulating on March 8th through a variety of neighborhood listservs indicating that the Department of Transportation plans to privately lease a substantial portion of the Kennet Street Garage to Discovery Communications.  The text calling for comments follows.

Lease of a Portion of Public Parking Garage 9 in the Silver Spring Parking
Lot District

Montgomery County proposes to lease a substantial portion of certain
property known as Public Parking Garage 9, located at 8040 Kennett Street
in Silver Spring, Maryland, consisting of approximately 300 parking spaces,
to Discovery Communications Incorporated, for a period of approximately 13
years. The leased area will be used by Discovery Communications for secure
employee parking, and may not be subleased or used for any other purpose
without the expressed written approval of the County.
Comments on this proposal are to be provided to Chief of the Division of
Parking Management, Department of Transportation, 100 Edison Park Drive,
4th Floor, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. Comments must be postmarked no later
than April 1, 2012.
00004812 1t 3/08/12

At the January 30th meeting, Mr. Orlin stated that there is a three year plan in place to match long term parking rates with short term rates.  Therefore, the cost of a PCS Permit was raised to $113 in 2012 and is projected to be raised to $132 in 2013 and $143 in 2014, but the last two increases are not set in stone.  The County Council can vote not to raise the amount of the permit.

Montgomery County wants to dissuade people from parking in the garages on a long term basis.  The garages are funded entirely by parking fees, parking fines and taxes on the property owners in the CBD.  The costs include garage maintenance and cleaning, electricity, parking enforcement officers and parking security forces.  The money collected is also transferred to other programs in Montgomery County including Ride-On buses and the Urban District (Red Shirts).  Rick informed us that the parking management system used in Montgomery County is a role model for the entire country.

The amount that property owners in the CBD pay in special taxes to go to the garages is less than 1/3 of what is needed to operate the garages, so if fines and fees aren’t collected the garages won’t run and the County Council will have to find money elsewhere in the budget to pay for some of the other services including the Urban District and Ride-On.  Fine revenues have remained flat and that is another reason why the fees needed to be increased.

The county staff recommended using the AM/PM permit instead of the PCS permit to save money.  Residents argued that this will not help many people. Few people work a 9-5 schedule, some work from home, and a number of residents are retired.

Developers in Montgomery County are not required to create parking spaces for residents. They can choose to pass the burden/cost of parking on to the residents in the building.

South Silver Spring Residents had the opportunity to let the members of the staff and elected officials know why the current plan is unacceptable and a solution needs to be found.

  • Some feel penalized for living in the CBD and subsidizing programs for the entire county.
  • If the cost of the permit is lowered then more people will be willing to buy them and the garage will fill up as opposed to being very empty for the majority of the time.
  • Charging for parking spaces on weekends would be a revenue boost as the garage is typically very full from Friday night through Sunday night.
  • Consider creating a yearly pass or making the process of ordering the pass more efficient—Response by Montgomery County to this is that they are looking at creating a permit residents can buy online, but they did not seem to want to consider a year pass because of the threat of theft.

The county staff will look at the possibility of creating a special reduced rate residential permit.  If this can be done without jeopardizing the DOT budget it will be considered during the late April/early May transportation committee meeting.  The councilmembers were also receptive to the possibility of creating a group rate, where the permit is bought in bulk and distributed through SSSNA or by building.

Both Valerie Ervin and George Leventhal will look into the issues raised by SSSNA residents at the meeting.  There will be a special meeting held at the end of April specifically to deal with parking and transportation issues.  More information will be sent to SSSNA when meeting dates/times are set.


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