Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pay for parking by cell phone in Bethesda

Instead of using change at the parking meters on the street and in garages in Bethesda, MD you can now register at ParkNow and then call a phone number, enter you space (or location) number and the amount of time you want.
This convenience comes at a price though, in addition to the standard meter payment they charge 25 cents per transaction.

How to use it:
  • Register at ParkNow (
  • Call the pay by cell phone number with your cell phone which is listed on the meter sticker.
  • You will be prompted to enter the meter number or space number.
  • Select the amount of time you wish to park.
  • You will receive voice and text messages confirming the start of your parking session. Note: Time will not appear on your meter.

  • Depending on what meter you are at, there will either be a "space number" (like the picture above) or a "Location #"

    This sign at the entrance to Elm St garage says that it will save you money, but since they charge per transaction and you don't get a discount on the meter, I'm not sure how you save. If they would add time to the meter a nickel at a time until you called and canceled or if you could call before the meter was active in the morning then not start charging until it became active then I could see it saving money. I don't see how it is faster than putting change in either, although the convenience of not having to keep change in your car is a plus.

    Update January 30:
    As one person mentioned in the comments, this is currently limited to Bethesda Ave, Woodmont Ave near Bethesda Row, and Elm St. plus Garage 57 and the large surface lot across from the book store (Lot 31). According to DOT, this is just a test and it only runs through April 4th, after which the meters will no longer accept cell phone payments. Depending on how the test goes and what is approved in the budget, they may decide to get bids to do this over a wider area.


    1. Yeah - I'm not sure about how it saves money, either. (And if you don't have a texting plan with your phone, it'll cost you more money!) Although, for those of us often without pocket change, it could prove to be very handy.

    2. You can cancel parking at any time, which is not possible if you have used nickels more than you need.

    3. So Anonymous, you seem to have more info than the rest of us. Are you saying that if you call in and put 2 hours on then after an hour you call and cancel, then you only get charged for 1 hour? And, would that count as one or two parking transactions? (In other words, would you get charged 25 or 50 cents?)

    4. Haven't tried it yet, but I did register and in the per-phone account settings you can disable the automatic text messages. I have a $/msg account and don't want to pay per session just for the message.

      Any idea where we can see which streets are included?

    5. Streets are Bethesda, Woodmont and Elm plus Garage 57 and the large surface lot. Yes, you can cancel the parking session by calling back and only pay for the time actually parked.