Charges for disabled parking in the US

From our vantage point, we see many stories about the misuse of disabled parking permits in the US. This week, we came across the experience in Arlington County, where they have done away with free parking and now charge a uniform fee for all users.

According to The Washington Post, the decision was made based on the numbers: in 1994, a survey of a portion of Crystal City (in Arlington County) found that 45% of parking meters were being used by motorists with disability placards. At the time, meter parking for disabled people was free and unlimited.

Comparing these numbers against estimates of ‘bona fide’ disability at a maximum of 4%, and the disability rate among active adults who could actually park at around 2%, a serious misuse appears to be taking place. Estimates of the lost annual revenue were at around $350,000.

Arlington County worked closely with key representatives from this sector of the community and introduced devices allowing people to pre-pay for parking (thus removing the need to manually service the meter and increasing the ease of payment) and reduced the number of designated disabled parking spaces from around 4% to around 1.4%.

Whilst results aren’t fully explained in the article, the approach – in removing the economic value of the disability permit – seems to have delivered results for the wider community and eradicated a problem that was endemic. It will be interesting to see whether other counties follow suit.

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