With that line, Don Shoup sums up a major issue concerning both on and off street parking. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, the 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.
Michigan, for example, 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, ie those with disabled placards can park free anywhere, the desire to cheat goes away.
The problem is that 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 this, 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 like 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 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 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 their daily lives should get it and those who abuse the rules need to be pilloried in the public square. When you abuse a disabled permit, you 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.