The case for eliminating disabled parking permits

As we’ve reported before, the abuse of disabled parking permits is widespread across the US (and not just there!). Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia are all reporting problems, with the situation particularly bad in Los Angeles, where a 2010 investigation found disabled passes in 80 per cent of parked cars in a 10 block radius.

According to The Atlantic Cities, the abuse of permits creates instability when a city has in place a paid parking scheme, as most disabled permits allow drivers to park for an unlimited period of time at no cost. Pricing structures that are calculated create a certain level of vacancy and turnover go out the window: a Los Angeles 2009 survey found that 5 per cent of cars with disabled permits used 17 per cent of all available parking time.

Two researchers have proposed a solution to this abuse: eliminate the disabled parking passes. Michael Manville of Cornell and Jonathan Williams of Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants in Seattle, Washington, argue that disabled placards invite fraud, compromise priced-parking programs, fail to help the neediest members of the disabled community and conclude that there are better ways to help people with disabilities.

Manville and Williams suggest that cities do away with placards entirely — or, at the very least, eliminate the payment exemptions attached to them. (They recognise that people with disabilities often take longer to perform tasks and therefore may need the time exemption).

They argue that disabled placards, as presently conceived, don’t help those with the most serious disabilities (who can’t drive anyway) nor those with moderate disabilities but low income (who can drive but can’t afford a car). Instead they propose using the increased parking revenue that will come from eliminating placards to improve programs, such as the paratransit service, designed to benefit this neediest group.

Read more on Manville and William’s full article and case in the September issue of the Journal of Planning Education and Research. You may also be interested in our recent post about Crystal City in Arlington, US, who have recently abolished all disabled parking permits, which you can view here.

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