District Eyes New Curbs on Parking: Handicapped May Have to Feed Meters

Article excerpt

In a proposal to free up parking spaces in the District, officials want to strip handicapped permit holders of their right to park at metered spaces without paying and make them adhere to time limits in residential neighborhoods.

The change, proposed by the D.C. Department of Public Works, would affect motorists with specially labeled license plates and placards that hang from the rearview mirror.

"Parking meters are intended to accommodate motorists who have a need for affordable short-term parking to permit them an opportunity to visit or conduct business. They are not intended to accommodate the all-day parking needs of any segment of our society," Gwen Mitchell, administrator of the department's transportation systems, wrote to public works director Larry King in a memorandum obtained by The Washington Times.

Among the changes, which will likely be open to public comment after the city attorney reviews them, the District would designate at least two reserved on-street parking meter spaces on each block.

"It probably will take a few years to get the signs and the parking spaces set up, but the costs for that will be recouped in what the city now is losing in revenue," said Craig Pascal, general counsel for D.C. Council member Harry Thomas, a Democrat, chairman of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment.

The new rules are partly aimed at making more parking available in residential areas by making handicapped-permit holders move their vehicles within posted time limits.

"Out-of-state visitors and commuters with handicapped parking privileges deprive residential permit holders of equal access to available parking spaces in their own neighborhoods," Mrs. Mitchell wrote.

The number of handicapped permits issued by the D.C. Bureau of Motor Vehicle Services has increased in recent years from 5,000 license tags and 1,018 temporary placards in 1992 to 5,238 license tags and 1,820 placards in 1994.

Parking permits available through the motor vehicle departments in Virginia, Maryland and the District have been illegally sold, altered and counterfeited.

In many instances, the placards are used when the handicapped person is not in the car and by drivers who occasionally drive a handicapped person somewhere and then drive to work, where they park free all day, city officials said.

The Department of Public Works has estimated that the city loses up to $45,000 in meter revenue each day to cars - many from Virginia and Maryland - that bear the special permits and park near office buildings to avoid the cost of parking garages.

In 1993, a city study of the downtown area bordered by Constitution Avenue, 23rd Street, Massachusetts Avenue and Second Street NW showed that more than 6,400 of the 16,000 metered spaces were taken all day by vehicles bearing handicapped license tags and placards.

Enforcement of the abuse is difficult, if not impossible, because a parking enforcement officer would have to see the car being parked and determine the validity of the handicap, some of which involve arthritis, heart problems and other conditions that are not visible, city officials said. …