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Point of View

The Disabled, an Endeavour, Parking in Your Front Yard

John Van Horn

“Disabled placard abuse is both despicable and ubiquitous.” With that line, Don Shoup summed up a major issue concerning both on- and off-street parking. Writing an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, the UCLA Urban Planning Professor notes that two states, Illinois and Michigan, have had the political will to do something about the problem, to stunning results.


In Michigan, the state had issued 500,000 disabled placards before the new law, only 10,000 after. The state adopted a two-tier system that takes into account different levels of disability. Drivers with severe disabilities receive special placards that allow them to park free at meters. Drivers with less severe disabilities receive ordinary placards and must pay at meters.


By taking away the monetary benefit – i.e., those with disabled placards can park free anywhere – the desire to cheat goes away.


The problem is that in order for market-based on-street pricing and the resulting reduction in cruising-related congestion to work, everyone needs to be treated the same. If half the people in a given area have disabled placards, and most of them are illegal, then the market cannot work.


In Alexandra, VA, police interviewed people with handicapped placards and found that 90% were illegal. With statistics like that, the disabled driver program simply no longer works. The truly disabled cannot find spaces that are reserved for them, and parking revenues are lowered by as much as 25% by cheaters.


Shoup continues that innovative programs such as SFpark and LA Express Park, which are experimenting with demand and market-rate pricing, have skewed results when so many spaces are taken by cars with illegal disabled placards. The jury is out as to whether these programs will work as advertised; however, they will not if they are required to play on a tilted field.


There are a number of ways to provide the disabled with access without making it “free” to all.


A two-tiered program where those with major disabilities are free to park, but others can park in disabled spaces but must pay for their parking.


Pay-by-phone so the disabled can more easily pay, and remove the surcharge for disabled.


Programs that require disabled parkers to pay, but allow them to park as long as they like, removing the time limits.


In the end, it is less of a technical and legal issue and more of a moral one. Those of us who need more time and space to go about our daily lives should get it, and those who abuse the rules need to be pilloried in the public square.


When parkers abuse a disabled permit, they are taking space from someone who is, in the face of personal hardship, attempting to live normal, productive lives. These citizens should be helped, not abused.


•••





A weekend in LA in mid-October was an “Endeavour.” The Earth orbiter moved at a blazing pace of 2 mph from LAX to its final dock at the California Science Center near the Memorial Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles. As I was watching the spectacle near PT’s offices, I noticed something.  Parking citation officers were out in force. And a lot of tickets were being written.


Here’s the parking question: Would it have been reasonable to have a parking ticket holiday while the shuttle was moving past? Was there any true danger with people parking in no parking zones along the route?  Give tickets for fire hydrants and blocking driveways, and places that cause danger to the public, but those places where there is a red curb because it is red, why not look the other way at times like this?


I need input. What do you think, parking folks?  Should the rules be relaxed in certain areas when major events take place?  Do we really care that people without a “G” permit park in a residential area so they can take their kids to see the shuttle?  Let me know. I think it’s a valid question, and I think the answers will tell us a lot about our industry.


The arrival of the Endeavour is a great moment for Los Angeles, parking tickets or no. My guess is that at least 100,000 people in the greater LA area worked on the shuttle program or knew someone who worked on the shuttle program. It was built here; and after countless miles in space, it was coming home.


This Endeavour has been a big deal for the City of Angels. There were concerts, dance reviews, air shows – all taking place along the route. The trip cost $10 million, and no taxpayer money. Why the $10 mil?  The space shuttle is so big that power lines had to be moved, trees cut down, traffic lights replaced all along the route.


Welcome home, Endeavour; you done good.


•••


The town of Foxborough, MA, has passed a law that people can’t sell their front yard areas to park vehicles around Gillette Stadium, where the NFL’s New England Patriots play football. This comes up from time to time, and cities usually just shine it on because the number of folks making a little side money is small.


However, in Foxborough, it seems that legitimate parking operators felt that they were being put upon, so they were able to get the City Council to see the error of its ways and pass an ordinance so that people allowing parking in their yards and charging, can be fined $100 per vehicle. Their argument is that they have to pay taxes and fees and the like, so they shouldn’t have to compete with Mazie who charges half what they charge and don’t pay fees or taxes.


Mazie says that they have to put up with the traffic and pollution and noise generated by the football stadium, so why not pick up a few extra shekels to ease the pain, so to speak.


Parkers love it – yard parking costs less, and they can get out faster than being in the stadium lot, which can take an hour to clear. So who is right?


There is one more thing — how do you enforce it? Some are saying that they let only their friends park there, and no money changes hands. Now the police are going to have to have sting operations to catch the housewives of Foxborough in the act of selling parking space.


If I want to have a yard sale, I have to get a permit. The cost of the permit sort of covers the sales tax, and I probably have to follow a few loose rules when I put my junk on the street for others to turn into treasure.  So why not for parking?


If the residents who wanted to park cars on their lawns and in their backyards had to get a permit, like a yard sale, and that way could be controlled a bit, then why not let them. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.


Maybe if the stadium and professional parking owners nearby provided a bit better service, and were able to get the vehicles moving in and out more quickly, they wouldn’t mind paying a bit more to park there. After all, in a month or so, it may be raining or snowing, and who wants to hike a few blocks in that weather.


I’ve always been a free market kind of guy. If someone wants to charge to park a car, let them.  You can always limit it to certain days (game days) and the like. Are we bordering a little on the banning of lemonade stands?


Just sayin’ …





John Van Horn is Editor of Parking Today.


Contact him at jvh@parkingtoday.com.





 

Article Abstract from December, 2012




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