WRAL Investigates

Raleigh eyes charging handicapped to park downtown

Posted January 7, 2010
Updated January 8, 2010

— Handicapped drivers could soon have to start paying to park on downtown Raleigh streets.

The City Council is considering a change to a long-standing policy allowing vehicles with handicapped placards to park in metered and time-limited parking spaces at no charge all day long.

Charge for handicapped parking in downtown? Charge for handicapped parking in downtown?

The policy has been a sore spot for downtown merchants, who say vehicles bearing the placards prevent other customers from parking near their establishments.

Many contend that people with disabilities aren't the ones flouting the system. Instead, they say, relatives and people who obtained a handicapped placard while recovering from surgery or another temporary situation use the tags for free, convenient, unlimited parking.

WRAL Investigates spotted the same Jeep with a handicapped tag parked for an extended period on a downtown street in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Two years ago, one woman admitted to using her father's placard, and another woman, who had recovered enough from a car accident to walk in high heels, said she planned to use her handicapped tag as needed until it expired.

"These cars will park here all day," Don Carter, a downtown building owner, said Friday about three cars with handicapped placards parked in 15-minute spaces on Davie Street. "Everyone loses except the one that's abusing the system."

City task forces in 2006 and 2008 discussed cracking down on the misuse of handicapped placards, but a parking and transportation master plan adopted last year didn't address the issue.

Members of the most recent parking task force and Downtown Raleigh Alliance representatives recently drew up recommendations for managing handicapped parking downtown. The proposals have been sent to a City Council committee for review.

"I'm hopeful the council will do something about it," Mayor Charles Meeker said, noting he's seen placard abuse firsthand.

The suggestions include charging drivers with handicapped placards for on-street parking, providing incentives for handicapped drivers to use city-owned parking garages, training volunteers and parking enforcement staff to spot misuse of handicapped placards and working with area lawmakers to update state laws on curbside parking in municipal areas.

City officials have said in the past that state law allows the free, all-day parking for placard holders, but supporters of new rules note that Charlotte charges handicapped drivers to park downtown.

Supporters also said that Raleigh's new program of using parking pay stations downtown will be undermined unless the handicapped parking issue is resolved.

Mark Ezzell, an advocate for the disabled, said he hopes the effort prompts citywide enforcement of handicapped placard rules.

"This is an issue we can come to some sort of agreement on," Ezzell said, "recognizing that some people aren't going to be able to come out every so often and feed a meter. But that's not to say those people shouldn't have to pay the same amount as anyone else."

30 Comments

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  • heatherbl Jan 8, 7:02 p.m.

    So, seeing as how many of us seem to know of abuses of the handicap permits, how do we report this abuse? I know of a parent of a disabled child who consistently uses the permit when the child is not in the vehicle for the pure convenience it provides. The parent has no documented disability. The permit was granted solely on the basis of the child's disability. Now, how could I report this abuse? Is the responsibility on me to prove the abuse? Or, is there a state agency I contact to report a suspected abuse and then they look into it? Anyone know?

  • cary1969 Jan 8, 2:15 p.m.

    only a person of legal age to drive should have a handicap pass.

  • FromClayton Jan 8, 1:59 p.m.

    ok so i see getting a close space because you are handicapped, but why can't they pay like the rest of us?

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Jan 8, 12:25 p.m.

    The only reason I can think of where disabled people should not have to pay, is if they are disabled enough where they can't work, and have a limited income.
    I am on my third pregnancy and this one has been harder than the others, but I still see myself as more fortnate that some and would never abuse that system. I pick my oldest son from after school care at a church and see people zooming into the handicapped spot like its just a regular spot. Even when is it is as cold as it is today, I park in the regular spots and just walk the 7-10 extra steps it takes.

  • White Eagle Jan 8, 9:50 a.m.

    How about limiting the handicap parking stickers to being valid for 3 or 6 months? That would cut down on the people who use them illegally and shouldn't inconvenience those who have a legitimate need.

    As for allowing those with the stickers free parking, can some one explain why this is so? The sticker gives you the right to park in handicap spots that are generally closer to the shops you want to visit, but why should you be able to do so for free?

  • jenforthewin Jan 8, 8:39 a.m.

    I believe it does people with disabilities a disservice to assume they don't have the money to park by giving them free parking vs. charging everyone else. People with disabilities are just like everyone else, except that they need a particular accommodation such as parking next to a ramp or near an entrance, or a wider parking space (in this case).
    Somewhat off-topic since this is supposed to be about those without disabilities taking advantage of the system, but perhaps if we remove this broken system and treat everyone more equally, some of this issue will resolve itself. JMO.

  • Chipperoo Jan 7, 7:45 p.m.

    I worked downtown until a few months ago and I saw handicap parking spaces being abused everyday. A guy I worked with used someone's handicap placard every day that he came to work and there was not a thing wrong with him. Also, being fat is not a handicap - they need the exercise and parking further away might help a little. I have a handicap parent and my father does not use the handicap spots when my mom is not with him and he has the actual license plate - he has more self respect than to abuse it. Maybe if they make people pay for handicap parking, there will be less abuse.

  • anonemoose Jan 7, 7:40 p.m.

    Knitter, how does your nephew get around, walk, hobble or wheelchair? If he can walk or ride in wheelchair, if so, mommy can push him. There are exceptions for juveniles if needed.

  • Titus Pullo Jan 7, 6:05 p.m.

    The way I see it. Handicapped permits should be assigned to individuals. Anyone using one who is not named on the permit should pay a BIG BIG fine when caught. And everyone should pay to park but some spaces need to be reserved for handicapped access.

  • Tax Man Jan 7, 5:48 p.m.

    I don't care if I am handicapped and have a placard or don't and can walk all across town. I will not ever go to a place where I must pay to park when I am going to a commercial business - if they won't provide my parking I don't need to give them my money! There are plenty of places where you can park for free, close to the merchant/restaurant/shop/venue, and do not even need a handicapped placard or space - so why would I go anywhere where I have to pay? Same with the toll roads - I will not pay (since I already have when I buy gas) to use state roads. Businesses need to provide parking for their customers - if not, I will not be needing their services. Simple rule and has always worked for me.

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