Local News

Raleigh Officials Propose Changes To Downtown Handicapped Parking

Posted April 14, 2006 9:12 a.m. EDT

— People visiting downtown Raleigh often hunt for short-term parking spots, but handicapped parkers take up many of the spaces all day. Now the Downtown Raleigh Alliance is pitching specific ideas to free the parking up.

The law allows the disabled to park in one of the short-term spots for hours without being ticketed. The handicapped placard on one car parked in such a space on Friday expires in July 2008, but that is not always the case. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance says people who are parking in 15-minute spots all day long are often using expired tags.

The alliance wants the city to create a citizens patrol to help with enforcement. That idea is backed by Mayor Charles Meeker and will be pitched to the City Council.

"It is to try and make things better for businesses downtown, so people can park downtown for a half-hour or an hour, go to lunch, buy something and have those street spaces like they are supposed to, which is not all-day parking," said Meeker.

Another proposal is to start offering a discounted rate for handicapped spots in city parking decks.

"We can offer incentives to people who can use that instead of street parking and leave street parking for people who really need it," said alliance president Nancy Hormann. "We need to look at this in a broader context."

The interim executive director of the Governors Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities, Allison Breedlove, believes some abuses do occur, but does not think the solution to downtown parking problems should fall on the backs of people with disabilities. She says it does no good for someone with a real disability to park in a deck that is not close to where they need to go.

"A lot of people with disabilities are not looking for the discounts; they are looking for parking that is convenient and accessible to them," said Breedlove.

The alliance knows the idea will not work for everyone. But they say that even if just half of the estimated 300 people using handicapped placards daily parked in the decks, others needing parking spaces would see immediate relief.

The city may also ask the county to discount its rates in county-owned parking decks.