WRAL Investigates

Handicapped parking problems plague Raleigh

Posted May 27, 2008
Updated May 28, 2008

— Two years after officials proposed ways to prevent people with handicapped placards from parking on downtown streets for hours at a time, the issue still frustrates business owners and confounds Raleigh leaders.

By Raleigh's interpretation of state law, vehicles bearing a handicapped placard or sticker can take any metered or time-limited parking space – at no charge – for as long as drivers need.

Throughout downtown, cars with placards usually dominate the on-street parking. Near the intersection of Jones and Wilmington streets on a recent day, for example, 11 of 13 parked cars indicated they belonged to handicapped drivers.

One woman, who didn't want to give her name, parked in a 15-minute spot on Hargett Street for at least eight hours. She left alone, but said her father, whose placard hangs from the car's rear-view mirror, had been with her when she parked.

"Momma picked him up," she said, adding that she doesn't think she took advantage of the system.

A WRAL investigation in 2006 uncovered the issue of handicapped-parking abuse, and Mayor Charles Meeker and officials with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance proposed offering more accessible handicapped parking in downtown parking decks and cracking down on people with expired placards.

Various city committees continue to discuss the problem. State lawmakers also have looked at options.

City Councilman Philip Isley said the issue is difficult to balance.

"Not only is it a revenue issue, it's just not fair," Isley said.

Various downtown merchants have suggested a limited number of on-street handicapped spots in addition to accessible deck parking.

Floye Dombalis, of the Mecca Restaurant, said the current system doesn't allow turnover.

"They stay there all day, and there's no parking space for anyone else," Dombalis said. "I think it's very serious."

Fred Johnson, of the Alliance of Disability Advocates, sees the issue differently.

"I understand that (frustration), but as it is right now, the law allows that. So, what do we do to address that that benefits everybody?" said Johnson, who is part of city discussions on the issue.

Charlotte requires people with handicapped placards to pay at parking meters like other drivers.

Several handicapped drivers in Raleigh said the cost of parking downtown would be prohibitive for them if they had to pay.

Parking decks charge up to $10 a day, and monthly lots charge from $55 to $95.

"I think there should be cheaper parking," one driver said.

"I couldn't pay. I didn't have the money for it," said another driver.

With Raleigh's free on-street parking for handicapped drivers, he didn't have to.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 29, 2008

    FYI... I sent an email to Paula Ford's supervisors asking if she is the woman in the video...and if misrepresenting oneself to gain special privileges, represents the values of Raleigh City Inspections. Since it's just a rumor, I just asked them to check it out, if discipline was in order and how widespread the problem is in the office.

    If you illegally use a handicap placard, think about how would you like it if your employer or children found out that you lie because you're lazy and make less fortunate people pay the price.

  • NCTeacher May 28, 2008

    I thought that when you used a handicap tag- the handicapped person had to be with you, or you could get a ticket. If the woman in the story had her father with her originally, she should have been given a ticket for not moving when he was picked up since she shouldn't have been using his tag.

  • Alicat May 28, 2008

    The sad thing about the placards is that I have seen people abuse them. I know a person who "borrows" her mom's card for her use. If the police would check to see who is using them (because you have to carry a registration issued to the handicapped person) I bet they would catch many offenders. You can't necessarily judge a person as handicapped because the look physically ok, they may have a heart problem or respiratory issue, but all it takes is just a check of that registration card. Also if someone is driving a handicapped person to the mall or wherever, why not drop them at the door and park outside the handicap spots. That would free them up and give that driver a bit of exercise. You can't do away with the handicap stickers but we can be more aware of who is using them.

  • A_Patriot May 28, 2008

    Why is Charlotte's interpretation of state law (all must pay) different than Raleigh's ('cappers get a free ride)?

    It seems one or the other is in order, or state law is sufficiently obtuse to warrant liberal interpretation (and should be refined).

    Me? I vote for Charlotte's interpretation. No free rides.

  • Blaow HowYaLikeMeNow May 28, 2008

    This is a definition of discriminate. "to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit". I don't discriminate. Liberals taught me that.

  • tamiya_stars May 28, 2008

    There is NO reason these people should not have to pay like everybody else.

  • Life-goes-on. May 28, 2008

    The whole handicapped parking system is a sham and should be done away with.
    Equal rights, equal treatment, we're all the same when it comes to parking. Not politically correct but fair.

  • NCMOMof3 May 28, 2008

    TheAdmiral, the only problem with calling for a police officer or tow truck is around Fayetteville, things like parking where you are not supposed to park is not considered important enough for someone in authority to do anything about. I know police officers are busy fighting real crime but there should be a solution somewhere. I like the idea of having the person's pic and license number on the parking sticker. Maybe that's a start.

  • TheAdmiral May 28, 2008

    "I've pulled up to her school on several occasions to find the handicapped spaces taken by parents in a rush and didn't want to take a few extra minutes walking from another parking space."

    If your not calling for them to be towed - and your not calling for them to be ticketed - you are part of the problem.

  • paythepiper May 28, 2008

    This is not only a problem in Raleigh. It is a problem everywhere. I sat outside WalMart and watched these so called handicapped people come and go. Out of 30 or so that I saw, only 2 appeared handicapped. All the rest got out of thier car and walked just as good if not better than I can. I also saw several with thier placards circle because there was no space, one of them was a man in a van that was confined to a wheelchair. He had to park at the back of the lot in order to have enough room to get his chair out, this while ablebodied people take these spaces simply because they are lazy. Put an officer down there and verify that they need the space, if not then send them on thier way.