At $80,000 per Space, Proposed Bethesda Parking Garage Needs a Second Look

For Immediate Release: May 5, 2008
Cheryl Cort, CSG, 202-251-7516
David Hauck, Sierra Club, 301-270-5826

At $80,000 per Space, Proposed Bethesda Parking Garage Needs a Second Look

Traffic Would Increase — Other Alternatives Should be Pursued
Montgomery County Council to Vote on Tuesday

In the midst of painful budget cuts and transit fare increases, the Montgomery County Council is on the verge of voting to spend $89 million, or $80,000 per space, for a 1,150 space parking garage in the heart of the walking and biking-oriented Bethesda Row district. The new garage will be adjacent to the Capital Crescent Trail and a block away from the planned South entrance of the Bethesda Metro station. The Council’s transportation committee voted for the garage on  Friday, before sending the issue to the full Council.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Montgomery County Sierra Club urged the Council to pursue more cost-effective ways to meet parking demand.

“These costs are off the charts. There are better ways to address parking availability and improve access to this pedestrian-oriented district,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for
Smarter Growth.  “It makes no sense for the County to fuel more traffic congestion in Bethesda with this high-cost subsidy for parking. At the same time, we are cutting transit and raising fares,
raising questions about the priorities being set.”  The groups noted that $80,000 per space is about double typical underground parking construction costs.

Empty parking spaces can be found in a number of garages within walking distance. “We are urging the Council to defer this vote to allow for more thorough analysis of cost-effective ways to address parking demand. Improved access to other garages and modern, real time information about space availability could be far cheaper than spending $80,000 per space.  Directing drivers to nearby open spaces also reduces needless cruising for parking and the accompanying frustration,” explained Cort.

Smart parking technologies are used at Rockville Town Center, BWI airport, and dozens of U.S. and European cities.

In addition to recommending the electronic parking management system and a downsized version of the new garage, the groups are urging the Council to use the remaining money to:  1) expedite the construction of the South entrance to the Bethesda Metro station; 2) expand, not
cut, bus service; 3) make pedestrian and bicycle access improvements in Bethesda.

“Bethesda is becoming a vibrant urban center, but its character and potential are at risk due to heavy traffic.  Too much subsidized parking is a sure way to create needless traffic.  Bethesda’s
long-term success as a community depends on more transit, more people living in downtown Bethesda, and a safer and a more attractive walking and bicycling environment,” said David Hauck, chair of the Montgomery County Sierra Club.