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Drivers: Montgomery Will Use Smart Boot

The announcement sounds so cheery: Your government working for you.

Starting Tuesday, Montgomery County will begin a parking enforcement program "that will make it easier for parking violators with three or more delinquent parking tickets to pay their fines on the spot without being towed," the county government said in a statement today.

The new system, called PayLock, uses a mechanical boot that can be instantly unlocked once the violator pays outstanding fines using a cell phone and a credit card. (Prince George's County began using the system more than a year ago.)

Very modern. And it beats getting towed.

"The new self-release boot system will help Montgomery County collect payment from vehicle owners with three or more delinquent parking tickets without preventing them from picking up their kids, getting to work or keeping important appointments," Department of Transportation Director Art Holmes said in the statement. "Instead, of returning to an empty parking space and realizing their car has been towed, residents will have the convenience of paying on the spot and, within a matter of minutes, having immediate access to their vehicle."

The county had been using boots only to keep delinquent drivers from moving their vehicle before towing. Drivers had to spend many hours paying fines and getting their cars back.

Now, scofflaws will see the 16-pound boot, and a notice on the car that includes a toll-free phone number. The driver can pay the fines, plus the $115 fee for the booting process, with a Visa, MasterCard or Discover credit or debit card. The driver also has to agree to return the boot to either of two parking stores.

Once that's set, the driver gets the combination to unlock the boot. If the driver cannot lift the boot, a parking enforcement officer will be sent to meet them at their parking site and retrieve it.

Drivers can also pay fines with cash at the two parking stores. They are at 809 Ellsworth Ave., Silver Spring (inside the Town Square Garage) and 4720 Cheltenham Dr., Bethesda (inside the Cheltenham Garage). They are open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, except county holidays.

Car owners with more than $1,500 in unpaid parking violations will continue to be towed rather than booted, the county said.

Don't let things get that far. Drivers can pay tickets online, by phone or in person before they are booted. Online, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov and click on Residents, and then Pay Parking Tickets. Or call Parking Citation Services at 240-453-0113. Or go to either of the Parking Stores, or to the County's Treasury Division, 255 Rockville Pike, Rockville. It's open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, except county holidays.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 26, 2009; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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