Handicap parking may face limits
Business owners complain unlimited, free access is being abused downtown
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The unlimited time those with handicap parking permits can leave their cars in spots in downtown Vancouver may be cut short, if the city council adopts a recommendation made by its Parking Advisory Committee.
In a workshop Monday night, city staff presented a new ordinance with a cap for free parking for handicapped drivers: four hours at meters and at on-street spaces downtown.
Currently, those with handicap permits may park wherever (except reserved spaces) for as long as they like, for free. Under the proposal, those at a spot longer than four hours without paying would be fined $15 for an expired meter, or possibly $18 for overtime parking, with those fees doubling after 30 days.
The ordinance has been considered in some form for almost a decade in Vancouver, following complaints by some downtown business owners that handicapped drivers were parking their cars in 30-minute spots in front of their stores for days or even weeks.
“Businesses were concerned because they said, ‘These are for our customers,’” Assistant City Attorney Alison Chinn said. “They’re not there for four hours or 10 hours, but sometimes weeks at a time. Obviously the intent of timed parking meters is not being met.”
Surveys showed that one block — Seventh Street just west of Broadway — had 13 meters filled with long-term handicap permit-marked vehicles, Chinn said. Often, the cars belong to senior citizens or downtown residents who use the spots as permanent parking, she said.
“They have (cars), but they don’t drive them or use them,” Chinn said. “That’s not a good use of the city right of way.”
Parking Services Manager Mike Merrill said the program would be phased in, with warnings and outreach done in problem areas before ticketing began. State law requires that the spots also be clearly marked that free handicap parking is restricted to four hours. The city would also work with seniors to provide discounted parking in city lots, he said.
State law allows cities to impose time limits on handicapped parking, and sets four hours as the minimum amount of time a city must allow permitted people to park there for free. A few other cities, including Spokane and Bremerton, have placed four-hour time limits on handicapped parking.
The boundary of the new four-hour time limit zone would be from Fourth Plain Boulevard on the north to the Columbia River on the south, and from Lincoln Avenue on the west to Interstate 5 on the east.
The council agreed to move the ordinance to a public hearing, but also said they want to hear more from disability advocates and handicapped drivers. A date for that hearing has not yet been set.
“We’ll put it to a public hearing, listen to our citizens and to our community on what they think about the proposed changes,” Mayor Tim Leavitt said.
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.