A $340 parking ticket is a jarring wake-up call. It’s what greeted Bruce and Carol Frazer recently in San Diego, California. But as they discovered why and by whom the ticket had been issued, they were not angry, they were elated.
The Frazer car was in a handicapped parking space on private property in front of their motel. They left the car windows open in the broiling sun just long enough to unload the car and change, and took the handicapped placard with them: another had been stolen from a car they rented elsewhere.
The Frazers never thought they would be ticketed on private property, but they didn’t count on San Diego’s conscientious Disabled Parking Enforcement Team (DPET). All volunteers, these, and they mean business. So does the county of San Diego. Curbs painted yellow signal areas strictly reserved for those with handicapped plates or placards. Then, too, those with these permits are always subject to challenges by DPET members or police. If they’re not legitimate permit holders they are subject to hefty fines, and the legitimate permit holders from whom they have been “borrowed” can have permits revoked.
Are these measures too harsh? Most San Diegans don’t think so; they’ve become acclimated to them and realize strict, even–handed enforcement is necessary.
Access (read parking) can be a huge problem for persons with disabilities. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, old age centers and specialty shops, not to mention residences and a host of other destinations, are often guarded by a thicket of parking meters. It takes disabled persons longer to get places and they frequently have to make repetitive, long-duration visits to medical providers. These realities should be considered by those who establish parking regulations.
But there are major differences between San Diego’s approaches to handicapped parking and those in other jurisdictions. All too many states, cities and towns make token efforts to meet the need, but they lack the will to really carry through.
There are three key elements to successful handicapped parking programs: 1) use of volunteers, 2) rigid enforcement, and 3) stiff fines.
Good handicapped parking programs yield win-win outcomes: better access, and more revenue for the jurisdictions.
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Note: An expanded version of this letter will be published by Americans For Fair Handicapped Parking and circulated to organizations involved with parking issues.