Editorial: No More Free Rides-Time To End Free Metered Parking For The Disabled
I’ve wondered this for years.
Illinois law has allowed motorists with handicap license plates or those with a disabled parking placard hanging from the rear-view mirror to park for free at any parking meter for decades.
The prevailing thinking was that standard single head parking meters would be difficult if not impossible for a driver in a wheel chair or similarly disabled to reach up and plunk their quarter into the coin slot.
But as the definition for “handicapped” has expanded, the number of drivers utilizing handicap plates and placards exploded, and new parking meter payment technologies have been developed, the law can only be seen as outdated.
This particular law came under the spotlight this week, when Sun-Times reporter Chris Fusco showed in a multi-part series, how many drivers brazenly took advantage of nearly non-existent enforcement by borrowing, stealing or forging handicap placards in order to park for free at high cost Chicago meters.
His most recent piece is a seemingly endless litany of these types of scofflaws.
On Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced legislation in the Chicago City Council that would increase the fines for drivers caught misusing a disabled placard to score free metered parking. Currently the fine is $200. Emanuel wants to make it $500 to $1000.
But his idea doesn’t address the overriding issue. You still have to catch the drivers in the act. Enforcement is not easy. It’s not black and white like an expired license plate or expired meter.
A driver can legitimately use a placard even if they are not handicapped, if the disabled owner of the placard is a passenger in the vehicle. Catching someone in the act takes a great deal of valuable police time and energy.
The best solution is just make disabled drivers feed the meters like the rest of us.
And that’s what Illinois State Representative Karen May (D-Highland Park) is essentially proposing. May announced today her intention to draft a bill dramatically revising the law in question.
However, in our opinion May’s legislation does not go far enough as it would still allow free parking for those who are so physically impaired they cannot reach a parking meter in order to pay. May’s bill would require a special two page form to be completed by a physician in order for a disabled driver to still park free.
Of course, no one will find a way to get around this!
The thing is, not only are new pay and display units more easily accessible to the disabled, but many other pay by phone technologies exist which make feeding the meter simpler and easier for both the able-bodied and handicapped alike.
If the law required municipalities to offer a pay by phone technology and repealed the free metered parking law altogether, handicap placard abuse would simply vanish.
In fact, by getting this law changed, and giving motorists the option to pay their parking meter by phone, all drivers–both able bodied and the handicapped–will benefit.