With parking rates slated to increase in the new year for Montgomery County operated garages and lots in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton, the Division of Parking Management (MCDOT) announced a new parallel pilot program to begin accepting Bitcoin payment. The tech-savvy initiative was presented as a way to help financially burdened residents pay for higher parking rates as well as to “rescue” the beleaguered financial situation of the Parking Lot District (PLD) for each downtown area, starting with a pilot program in downtown Bethesda.
Bitcoin has been generally skyrocketing over the past year both in value and in the news. “We really wanted to capitalize on Bitcoin’s popularity,” County spokesperson Coris Ponder exchanged. “It’s a perfect solution. Bitcoin’s rising value gives the Parking Lot District (PLD) additional revenue without technically raising prices. We don’t even need to reprogram the meters each month to adjust the pricing whenever the parking rates do go up for real.”
* Bitcoin pricing history chart courtesy of Wikipedia
While the flexible payment options were generally lauded, not everyone was in support of the parking price increase. County resident Jordan Bentley asked, “If our County’s young adults can’t afford downtown rent, what makes you think they can afford downtown parking?”
County Councilmember Andrew Friedson, who did not support the timing of a proposed parking price increase in the middle of a pandemic, did applaud the move to Bitcoin payments. He explained that “[Bitcoin] allows us to shift the needed additional revenue generation to those making a killing in cryptocurrency. It’s a perfect pairing!”
The County noted that the goal of providing a hip new payment method was not to drive more vehicular traffic, but rather to “face the reality that millennials just don’t seem very interested in coming to downtown Bethesda.” Ponder added, “We’ve done everything we can to attract millennials – from luxury high-rises to pocket parks to the highest per capita of bank branches on the East Coast. We weren’t sure what to do next, so figured we’d try and see if the lure of cool cryptocurrency might just be the ticket.”
Financial troubles have plagued the Bethesda PLD for quite some time, almost going broke in 2015. Ponder explained that the Transportation & Environment Committee was comfortable moving forward with the current plan. “We’ll totally be fine as long as we keep finding assets to sell to developers and finally attract those millennials we’ve been courting.”
When informed of the recent volatility of Bitcoin, Ponder shrugged off the news. “Any government program will have its ups and downs, but the revenue opportunity is just as clear as what exactly cryptocurrency is.”