County Altering Digital Residential Parking Permit System

After complaints about electronic system, transportation department will provide paper passes


A screenshot from the county's online residential parking permit registration site


Montgomery County is bringing back paper permits for its residential parking program after exclusively using a digital system for a little more than two years.

The change comes after residents complained about the online process for registering visitors to park in their neighborhoods, officials said. Residents still must register their vehicles online, but they’ll also receive paper permits and can request paper visitor permits.

The county’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has used the residential permit parking program for more than 40 years so neighborhoods near Metro stations or urban centers such as Silver Spring and Bethesda can cut down on commuter or commercial parking.

The digital program began in June 2015. After then, the county stopped distributing paper and sticker permits in the 51 neighborhoods where on-street parking is monitored.

The digital program was designed to give residents a faster way to obtain permits to park on their neighborhood streets. It also is meant to be more efficient for enforcing parking restrictions in neighborhoods by using technology such as license-plate readers.

Soon after the digital program rolled out, residents began complaining, according to County Council members.

County Council President Roger Berliner said Tuesday that his office received numerous complaints from residents who thought it was difficult to register a visitor’s vehicle to park in the neighborhood using the online system. He said residents who needed a nurse to take care of a relative or called a handyman to fix something in their home struggled to figure out the digital registration process for visitors.

“We got more complaints on this than almost anything I’ve been involved with on the council,” Berliner said.

As the complaints mounted, five County Council members sent a letter to DOT in July. They asked the department to provide physical stickers to residents who register to park on streets in their neighborhoods, as well as paper visitor permits.

“This new system has been extremely frustrating for many residents, and their frustration cannot simply be addressed by improving the existing systems and expecting residents to become accustomed to the changes,” Berliner and council members Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, Tom Hucker and Sidney Katz wrote.

Al Roshdieh, the county’s transportation director, wrote in a response sent last week that the department will distribute sticker permits for all vehicles registered in the parking program over the next 90 days. He also wrote that the department will let households in the program know that they can request a paper visitor permit if they no longer want to use the digital system.

Households that want a physical visitor permit can no longer obtain a digital visitor permit, according to Roshdieh.

Esther Bowring, a spokeswoman for the transportation department, said Tuesday that DOT received some comments from residents about the digital system, but they dwindled as users adjusted to it.

Bowring said that before the digital system was put in place, enforcement officials walked around neighborhoods and physically inspected cars to make sure they had a valid parking permit.

She said now that the county will again distribute paper permits, enforcement officials might have to do that again to enforce parking restrictions in neighborhoods.

She said the county paid about $200,000 for the digital system and used funds generated by the parking program to pay for it. Residents have to pay $20 each year when they register for a permit online.

“People that are happy with the digital system can continue to use [it] for visitors,” Bowring said. “At this point, we don’t know how many people will opt for the paper system as opposed to keeping the digital permit.”

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