Group calls for stricter measures to minimize abuse of disabled parking placards

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Should people who have handicap placards start paying for metered parking like everybody else?

Lawmakers could soon make the change.

Right now, anyone with a person with a disability parking placard can park at a metered parking stall for free for the first two and a half hours.

What’s not clear is that the exemption was only meant for drivers with disabilities who can’t operate a meter.

We wanted to know how this proposal will clear the confusion and what this means for drivers with a placard.

The group behind the proposal says it will help free up street parking and generate more money for the City. It will also cut down on the abuse by people who get the placards just for the free parking.

“The placard was never intended to be a benefit to individuals to not feed the meter, although we do realize there are some people who have difficulty feeding a parking meter,” said Disability and Communication Access Board executive director Francine Wai.

The board tells us the problem areas are Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown. They say abuse has gotten worse because metered parking along the streets has gotten more expensive and scarce.

“The reality is that there is very little enforcement and it’s very difficult to have an enforcement officer there to monitor how much time you have in a parking stall,” said Wai.

If Senate Bill 974, or its counterpart House Bill 1108, passes, a different placard or decal would be given to distinguish drivers with a disability who can’t feed the meter from those who can.

“The bill would definitely free up parking where people who are not paying for parking meters,” said Wai. “We also think this will take away the incentive for people for getting parking placards or misusing a parking placard.”

The Hawaii Disability Rights Center said it has mixed feelings about the change.

“There’s clearly a lot of folks in the disability community who currently enjoy that benefit. I can appreciate that they are reluctant to have that taken away from them,” said Hawaii Disability Rights Center executive director Louis Erteschik.

We’re told there are about 100,000 people in the state who have a placard.

“It seems like a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of extra government regulation and rules that have to be designed to basically not affect a whole lot of people, so maybe more trouble than it’s worth in my opinion,” said Erteschik.

We reached out to the City if it had any numbers on how much money it might have lost. A City representative said no records are kept at meters when disabled placards are used, so officials don’t know how much would be lost or gained if the bill is passed.

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