Disabled still unhappy with D.C. red-top meter plan

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Photo - Handicapped parking space (Examiner file photo)
Handicapped parking space (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley

Despite months of negotiations, advocates for the handicapped on Monday said they're still unhappy with the District's plan to install hundreds of red-top parking meters and start charging disabled drivers who use them.

The program, newly revised in a bill sponsored by D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, would require disabled drivers to pay for on-street parking -- something they now get for free -- but reserve one in 10 of the city's parking spaces, marked with red meters, for them. The program aims to curb the use of fraudulent use of disability placards, which officials say is rampant downtown.

But advocates for the disabled who appeared at a hearing Monday remained skeptical about the plan despite months of negotiations with the city and adjustments already made to the bill, like the addition of hundreds of handicapped parking spaces.

"I don't understand why the D.C. government wants to increase its revenue on the backs of the disabled," said Cora Rubenstein, 75, a D.C. resident who said she has polio. "I think this legislation uses the wrong approach."

Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living, worked closely with Cheh to revise the program after D.C.'s bungled first attempt to install the meters earlier this year. But Buckland said he still can't support the bill because it doesn't spell out promises the District made about how the program would work, including a provision that would bar the District from charging the disabled for parking until all 1,800 red-top meters were installed.

"The bill authorizes [the District Department of Transportation] to move forward with the program but doesn't outline how that would happen or list the things that need to happen before that would happen," he said.

It will be months before people with disabilities have to pay for parking and before officials start handing out $250 tickets to able-bodied people who park in the red-topped spots. DDOT Director Terry Bellamy said the program wouldn't launch until March at the earliest. Cheh said the bill probably won't get through the D.C. Council until January.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner