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Fri., Sept. 13, 2013

Disabled parking hijacked by cheaters

This commentary from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.

Parking spaces reserved for those with disabilities should be sacrosanct.

They should be used only by those who truly need them, regardless of whether people are in possession of the state-issued blue disabled parking placards.

Yet, that’s not happening. In fact, in some larger cities the number of people abusing the disabled placards is soaring – and becoming a problem.

That does not seem to be a problem in the Walla Walla Valley. Generally, the disabled-parking spaces are available for those who need them and few are using placards to beat the two-hour parking rules. Most folks are doing what’s right. We hope that continues.

Portland is seeing a surge in deceit. Parking placard abuse is out of control, and it’s being blamed on the loosening of rules to obtain placards and the city’s aging population.

That accounts for only some of the 72 percent increase in placard use (and abuse) over the past five years. The bulk of placard use seems to be an outright effort to beat the system.

Downtown parking in Portland, like many big cities, requires drivers to pay. Those who have disabled placards, however, are exempt.

“It was astonishing to see car after car after car with the disabled placard,” said Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick.

The Associated Press verifies Novick’s claim. AP reported it is common to find entire city blocks in which there are more cars with placards than without. This problem is more than annoying to Portland officials, it is expensive. It’s estimated it cost the city $2.4 million in lost parking meter revenue last year,

Novick is seeking reform, including tightening standards on who is allowed to have placards.

But experts in this problem, which is growing throughout the country, say the only way to really curb the problem is to make the disabled pay to park.

“Economically, a free parking pass is a very nice thing to have, and there are always enough people who are a bit unscrupulous when it comes to parking that you can’t expect self-restraint,” said Donald Shoup, a UCLA urban planning professor and author of “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

He is probably correct. But allowing those who are truly disabled to get closer to their destination is the right thing to do and not making them pay is a nice thing to do.

It is very sad and unfortunate people choose to lie and cheat to get a good parking space and a free parking space. The cheaters don’t suffer; it is the disabled who need easier access to places who do.

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