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D.C. revives parking charges for handicapped drivers

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Photo - Disabled drivers in the District may soon after to pay to park at city parking meters. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner photo)
Disabled drivers in the District may soon after to pay to park at city parking meters. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner photo)
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley

More than 10 percent of the city's on-street parking spaces will soon be reserved for people with disabilities, who will be forced to pay in the District for the first time, under legislation unveiled Monday by Ward 3 D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh.

The bill restarts implementation of the red-top meter system that got off to what Cheh called a "fairly rocky start" when it was halted almost as soon as it was announced earlier this year because of an outcry from disability advocates.

Cheh's bill requires disabled drivers, who until now were allowed to park anywhere for free, to pay for parking at regular meter rates, which are $2 per hour in high-demand zones. That's more than the 75 cents per hour that the District Department of Transportation recommended when it reviewed the system in June.

Cheh's legislation would reserve 1,800 special red-topped parking spaces for handicapped drivers -- more than 10 percent of all of the city's on-street parking spaces.

District officials first proposed charging handicapped drivers for parking to fight the fraudulent use of handicapped placards, which drivers were using to escape parking fees.

"Earlier this year, the Department of Public Works determined that many of the on-street spaces near federal office buildings were actually occupied all day long by nonresidents who worked there and who were not disabled," Cheh said. "This bill is going to change that."

City officials won't start charging handicapped drivers until all 1,800 red-top meters are installed -- a process that will take months, according to DDOT's Soumya Dey.

With more than 10 percent of the city's on-street parking spaces being reserved for the disabled, finding a parking spot could get trickier for D.C. drivers. Still, advocates for the handicapped said there aren't enough meters being reserved.

"I don't think it's going to have enough distribution across the entire city," said Maureen Norman, Ward 6 representative for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Cheh's bill waives the 32-cent fee for pay-by-phone payments at red-top meters and requires DDOT to ensure that the red-top spaces remain wheelchair-accessible.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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