Kojo chats with two reporters who spent the past year following the launch of Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, D.C.'s new school for boys of color. Their stories are now featured in "Raising Kings," a collaboration between NPR and Education Week.
You may have noticed new ‘red top’ parking meters popping up around the District. There will soon be 1,500 of them marking spots reserved for use by people with disability tags or placards only. More controversial are new rules that require everyone to pay to park-even at those red top meters. We look at accessible parking rules around our region, and what they mean for all drivers.
- Betsy Luecking Disability Policy Specialist, Montgomery County
- Bob Herman Senior Advocacy Attorney, Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Muriel Bowser Member, D.C. Council (D-Ward 4); Chair, Committee on Government Operations
- Terry Bellamy Director, District Department of Transportation (DDOT)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. If you drive in the District, you may have noticed the new parking meters around the District that have popped up. They've got bright red tops. The color may make some think emergency, but in fact, they're for people with disability license plates or placards.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe District is rolling out 1,500 of them. Until now, people with disability tags could park at any on-street meter and stay for twice the time indicated on the meter, and it was free, as it is in most jurisdictions. The difference with these new meters? Everyone pays. While some feel it could cut down on fraudulent use of disability tags, it's got some in the disability community up in arms.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to discuss the red-top meters is Terry Bellamy. He is the director of the District Department of Transportation. Terry Bellamy, thank you for joining us.
MR. TERRY BELLAMYThank you.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Betsy Luecking, disability policy specialist with Montgomery County. Betsy Luecking, thank you for joining us.
MS. BETSY LUECKINGWell, thank you.
NNAMDIAnd for those of you who would like to join the conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. If you have already heard of them, what do you think of the District's new disability parking rules? If you haven't, you're about to hear about it during the course of the conversation. But you can also get in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation right there.
NNAMDITerry, I'll start with you so we can get details of exactly what's going on here. What are the red-top meters, and how many will there be?
BELLAMYThe red-top meters are for Americans with disabilities, as you indicated with hangtags or placards. Nine percent of the on-street parking in the District of Columbia will have red-top meters once we finish the complete rollout. That's about 1,500 spaces.
NNAMDINine percent. There are 17,000 metered spots overall in the District, it's my understanding. How did you decide where to put the 9 percent that are going to be red-top meters?
BELLAMYThe way that the red-top meters were determined is that we did a series of inventories. We looked at the central business district where we had a lot of business corridors that require turnover parking. And then we looked at what we call the four-blocks where at least one red-top meter will be at each -- on each block, leaving the communities, the streets that don't have meters the way it is where citizens can actually get preferential parking if they have an 88 placard on resident streets.
NNAMDIWill there be a spot for the disabled on every block, every other block, anything like that?
BELLAMYIn the key business area -- every block in the key business areas will have a red-top meter.
NNAMDIBut not necessarily every place there are meters in the District. So with these new red-top meters, what changes for people who have disability placards or plates?
BELLAMYWhat changes is that at the red-top meter you would get the double time parking for the price of -- you pay -- you can get double the time for whatever the time allotment. If it's one hour, you can get two hours. If it's two hours, you can get four hours.
NNAMDIParking used to be free for people with disability tags as -- is the case in most jurisdictions. Why was the decision made to charge parking fees in the District with these new red-top meters?
BELLAMYIt actually goes back to about 2004, 2005. At the beginning, the technology was not there, so the interim solution was to allow double the time for free. Since then, we've introduced some technologies with the IPS meter and pay-by-space meters, as well as pay-by-self. So we now have the technology. And so it's implemented, so that everyone pays.
NNAMDIThere no longer -- it's my understanding, let's go back to the notion of staying for twice the amount of time on a non-red-top meter because now that there are red-top meters, it's my understanding, that people with disability plates or placards can no longer park on a nondisability meter for twice the amount of time.
BELLAMYI think that the -- and the interim solution at this time, as we work through the program, if there is a disabled placard, I think, at this time, we have not...
NNAMDIYou haven't changed that.
BELLAMYWe haven't changed that.
NNAMDIThey can still park for twice...
BELLAMYAt this time.
NNAMDIWhen you say at this time is there a time in the future after the program is not only implemented but being enforced when that might go away?
BELLAMYWell, overall, what we're doing is, I think, we're heading in the right direction with the outreach on this program, and we're glad to be here with you today because one of the things as we roll out the program is to continue to get feedback from the community as we finalize and complete the total rollout of the program.
NNAMDIWhat is the fine for parking at a red-top meter without a placard or license indicating a disability?
BELLAMYTwo hundred fifty dollars.
NNAMDIAllow me to repeat that. The fine for parking at a red-top meter without a placard indicating a disability or a disability license plate is $250. And what if someone with valid disability tags overstays the time on the meter?
BELLAMYThey will get a citation just like anyone else and I'm...
NNAMDIAnd they pay the full fine.
BELLAMYThey pay the fine, correct.
NNAMDINot a lot of people are familiar with the idea of red-top meters. What kind of education campaign, besides appearing on this broadcast, which the entire world listens to, what kind of education campaign are you undertaking?
BELLAMYWhat we're undertaking right now is going back out to the community, explaining it, putting out more pressers, doing direct email and mailing to the 20,000 placard holders in the District of Columbia. One of the big pieces is that a lot of people from across the country comes in to the District -- tourism -- and it's been kind of unique because all over the country states and cities have been calling us about this rollout, and we're sharing information with them as well.
NNAMDISome people are concerned about tourists, maybe relatives from out of town, and people who often park downtown. How will tourists be educated about the red-top restrictions?
BELLAMYOne of the things that we're doing with our signage for the red-top meters is getting more dynamic signage at the location. When we first started it, we actually put TCOs and school crossing guards out at the meters doing the implementation part, answering questions, and we put fliers on the cars that were park there during the rollout. And we will continue to do that -- is to continue to put as much information as we can out to the public.
NNAMDIAllow me to have a telephone caller join us because we've been in touch with Washington, D.C., Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser. She joins us now by telephone. Muriel Bowser, thank you for joining us.
COUNCILMEMBER MURIEL BOWSERThank you, Kojo, for having me.
NNAMDIMuriel or Councilmember Bowser, you've heard from constituents who are not pleased about the new meters. What are you hearing?
BOWSERWell, we're hearing that a lot of people with disabilities and a lot of our senior neighbors qualify for the disability tags and have disabilities are just very concerned that they're facing a new fee. And I think they're also very concerned that they don't quite understand the program or where the meters are, how long they can park, what the differences are between this new program and the old program.
BOWSERAnd they're probably most concerned that there's -- this amounts to a pretty significant policy change that hasn't been debated publicly. So they just feel like it was dumped on them without a lot of discussion and no input from them.
NNAMDIDo you have an issue with people with disability tags paying the regular meter rate?
BOWSERWell, I think it's -- it should be discussed. It's the sort of thing where we come up with a new fee. We go out to the community. We talk about it, and we have a rigorous public debate about it. And I think if -- certainly, we have limited parking in the District. We have to be able to manage our parking. We have to be able to deal with problems and abuse with disability parking and to deduct credit, I think, that that's what they're trying to do.
BOWSERBut I think you can even see in the discussions and, you know, I have great admiration for Director Bellamy, but it's a big change that amounts to a lot of moving parts and pieces. And I don't think the public has been adequately engaged on what that change means for their day-to-day life.
BOWSERFor example, I have people in my ward who regularly go downtown to doctors appointments and they -- the whole time they're there, they're sacred they're going to get a ticket. We can do better than that.
NNAMDILet's see how engaged the public wants to be. You can call us at 00-433-8850. Do you think people with disability tags should pay for parking? 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to email@example.com, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and offer your comment there. Councilmember Bowser, right now, it can be tough to find a regular on-street metered spot, won't these new meters guarantee at least that there are spaces for people with disabilities?
BOWSERI think they might, and that remains to be seen because, right now, I, you know, I'm not sure where the meters are. And so if are a person with a disability and you're counting on being able to go and park some place, you may be driving around looking for these reserved metered spaces, which would guarantee you a longer time to park. And then there's some question of if you're having them on every block, what does that do for the overall supply of parking spaces?
BOWSERI don't know the answers to those questions, Kojo. And that's why, I think, DDOT should really take the time and we as a city should take the time and require DDOT to show us what the data are that have led them to this policy change and show us how their new program is going to work. And so, you know, I, obviously, have had these conversations with Director Bellamy, and we really need, in my estimation, a pause to make sure that the government is moving in the right direction and to make sure that the citizens have been adequately engaged.
NNAMDIYou plan, it is my understanding, to introduce a bill to halt this red-top program. Tell us about that.
BOWSERWell, that's our plan, you know, and I really -- I hesitate to make big legislative changes by emergency, but I see this policy as one that hasn't been adequately debated, and the council should weigh in on it and require the agency and the mayor to show us what their plan is. I mean, you -- we've heard about the outreach plan. A lot of the things are pending. We know that people are already getting tickets as it relates to misunderstanding of when they can park and how long they can park. So it's really important that when we do something like this we engage all d residents.
NNAMDIWhat do you say to people who say why even bother to have a District Department of Transportation with a director if every time they try to roll out new rules you have to submit it to a discussion in which everybody gets to have a say? That's why things in the District of Columbia don't get done in a timely way.
BOWSERWell, I'm not talking about new rules. I'm talking about new fees. And the last time I checked is people expect the council of the District of Columbia to be in and involved in that discussion.
NNAMDIWell, I missed you at my front door the other day. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about, or where you there because you're running for re-election?
BOWSERNo. I was there to tell you early voting starts today at Judiciary Square, and we want to see you there. And then to switch topics just slightly, the Board of Elections is all set up. For District voters who may -- many people are traveling on the week of April the 3rd, and we want to give them every opportunity to exercise their vote. And so early voting started at Judiciary Square today, and it will begin at eight early voting centers across the District of Columbia this Saturday.
NNAMDIIn other words, you're not interested in my opinion about red-top meters? Is that what you're saying to a constituent?
BOWSEROf course, I am interested in your opinion.
NNAMDIWell, I'm not about to give it right now. But, Muriel Bowser, thank you very much for joining us.
BOWSERThank you and my best to Director Bellamy and all your guests.
NNAMDIMuriel Bowser is the Ward 4 councilmember for the District of Columbia. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we will talk with Director Bellamy, the rest of our guests and you. If you've already called 800-433-8850, stay right where you are. If you haven't yet, that's the number to call or you can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We're talking red top meters for persons with disabilities. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on red top meters. Terry Bellamy is still with us. He's the director of the District Department of Transportation. And, Terry Bellamy, when is the date by which the enforcement of the rules regarding red top meters is supposed to start?
BELLAMYRight now, we're looking in forward enforcement the beginning of May of 2012.
NNAMDIThat is unless, of course, the legislation proposed by Councilmember Bowser, the emergency legislation that would halt the program, happens to pass. Also joining us in studio, we mentioned earlier, is Betsy Luecking, disability policy specialist with Montgomery County. And now, joining us is Bob Herman, senior advocacy attorney for Paralyzed Veterans of America. Bob Herman, thank you for joining us.
MR. BOB HERMANThank you, Kojo, for having us.
NNAMDIJust mentioned that you're with a group that advocates for paralyzed veterans. You don't agree with Councilmember Bowser. You feel the new red top meters will be an improvement over the current system. Why?
HERMANWhen I heard about the program, I thought it was terrific because parking is impossible, and to have these extra spaces available is just such a wonderful thing. Now, the issue of paying -- for me and for my organization, Paralyzed Veterans, it's always been about equal access. And if you have equal access -- along with equal access comes equal obligations. So there shouldn't be an issue.
NNAMDIHow about those people who -- and I suspect when Muriel -- when Councilmember Bowser mentioned seniors, you were really talking about people on fixed income.
HERMANI don't have an easy answer for that. I wish I did.
NNAMDIWell, I -- go ahead.
HERMANAnd I know it is difficult for some people to afford to pay, just as it was difficult for MetroAccess when they raised up their rates for people who take the bus to dialysis several times a week. But...
NNAMDIIt's difficult and, as you point out, there are no easy answers.
HERMANNo, no. I wish there were. There is vouchers and there is a number of other kinds of things might be available.
NNAMDIBetsy Luecking, has Montgomery County considered charging for disability parking at all?
LUECKINGWell, we do charge in some of our garages. It's -- if you pay on foot, we charge there. But not at this time are we really looking to have any charging at the meters at this time because all of our meters are not accessible, and that's really the issue here. It's not about, you know, income. It's really about accessibility, and that's why they've been free up to this time.
NNAMDIBefore we go the phones, Terry Bellamy, let's talk accessibility for a minute because I know that one of many issues with standard meters is that they are inaccessible for some people or many people with disabilities. They were generally too high to reach for someone in a wheelchair, for example. Are the new red meters more or fully accessible?
BELLAMYYes. I will say that for the most part, our new red top meters are accessible. We are constantly checking to make sure that they are accessible. They are less 96 inches high. They take coins as well as credit cards as well as paid by sell, and we try to put them as close to the crosswalk as possible, so a person with disabilities will be able to get out, get to a crosswalk and get on the sidewalk.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. We start with Maureen in Washington, D.C. Maureen, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
MAUREENHi and hello to Terry Bellamy. I was one of those who testified at the DDOT oversight hearing on this very issue, and I'm an advocate for person -- people like myself who live with multiple sclerosis, and I'm also a disabled vet recovering from traumatic brain injury. And I'm a person who's had a D.C. parking placard for over five years. From our perspective, there are a lot of problems with the red top program.
MAUREENThe first is recognizing that disabled parking isn't like a perk for being disabled, it's actually a necessity, and it's needed all over the city not just downtown. I understand that there are issues related to fraud, but our thing is go after the fraud and don't go after the low hanging fruit, meaning the disabled and the infirm.
NNAMDIAnd what do you mean by going after the disabled and the infirm?
MAUREENWell, by eliminating effectively disability parking, by limiting it to simply the red top meters. And we do take issue with the question of...
NNAMDIExcuse me. It's my understanding the disability parking is not limited to the red top meters but that the red top meters are designed specifically for persons with disabilities. That does not prevent a person with a disability from parking at another meter and paying the full fare.
MAUREENRight, but also not having the additional time, and that is what is really so critical here is having the additional time on the meter in order to take -- to accomplish what may take longer for a person who's disabled or infirm. And I do take issue with the question of, you know, the cost of the amount of paying. It does amount to a new disability parking tax. Not many people are on fixed income, they're more likely to be on fixed income. And just because everyone must pay doesn't mean everyone must pay the same amount.
MAUREENMetro does not charge to disabled and senior citizens the same rate as it does everyone else. So I think I agree with Muriel Bowser from the stand point that we really need to stop, revisit this issue and include particularly the perspective of people who actually use these permits all over the city. And also, a big...
NNAMDIAllow me to interrupt for a second because other people would say that what you are therefore saying is that people who have to pay on parking meters are paying parking tax, and that that parking tax should not apply to persons with disabilities.
MAUREENWell, it's a definite sea change, and as we've been seeing so much in the press, D.C. is determined of squeeze every, you know, penny out of people who park in the city. And for people who are using disability placards, it's a matter of the necessity to go from door to door, and that is the concern. Even when they have in all the red top meters that they say they're going to have in, there are two -- still two problems.
MAUREENOne, right now, DDOT does not have a very good record at policing the present handicap places and keeping people who do not have disability placards or parking tags from parking there. And there's no reason to believe that they're gonna be any better.
NNAMDIMaureen, I do have to move on. What kind of system would you like to see in place? I get the impression that you would like to see red top meters but that you would like to see those red top meters be free, and that you would like the ongoing parking at regular meters for twice the period of time for free.
MAUREENYeah. I mean, essentially, I think that we need to return to the previous program, or at the moment, we need to stop and really revisit this issue. I agree with Muriel Bowser, this is a big change and that fact a lot of people who are finding out about it at the very last minute. But I...
NNAMDIAnd you don't think that the hearings that you participated in are sufficient?
NNAMDIOkay, allow me to have Bob Herman say a few words. What do you say, Bob Herman?
HERMANWell, she does articulately state the issue, and I can see the difficulty. It is very difficult to get back to your meter to feed it, which is why they make it double the amount of time.
NNAMDITerry Bellamy, would the red top meters have longer periods of time than most regular meters do?
BELLAMYYes, and they doubled the time, but we introduced last year the pay-by-cell where as you -- once you park, you could actually call from your cell phone or whatever phone where you're located to be able to say, I'm staying longer. I need to add more time to my space.
NNAMDIMaureen, that seems to suggest that you don't have to dash back to the meter.
MAUREENWell, one concern is that paying by phone adds 32 cents to every transaction, so that's, again, another charge that'll follow disproportionally to disabled and infirm people who cannot actually maybe see the slot, see -- depending on where the light is, you can't always read what you're doing on it. So it means that you're more likely, again, have to have that additional expense on top of everything else.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you for your call. I wanna figure or find out from Doris, who is calling from Arlington, Va., who wants to talk about how it works in Arlington. Doris, you're one the air. Go ahead please.
DORISHi, Kojo. I wanted to mention to the audience that Arlington County has had what they call "All May Park, All Must Pay" for over 10 years now. (unintelligible) actually. And this has been a concern to the disability community. What happened in Virginia was that state parking law was changed to allow local options. So that after that law was passed, Arlington made a decision to go to the kind of system that the District is now about to -- appears to be implementing.
NNAMDIWhat has been the results of it? And, Doris, I should mention, I think it's with endenpents in Northern Virginia? ENDependence.
DORISENDependence Center of Northern Virginia where a community resource center run by people with disability, serving people with disabilities in Northern Virginia.
NNAMDIHow's it worked out in Arlington?
NNAMDIHow has it worked out in Arlington?
DORISIt's a very mixed bag. Some people feel that it provides equal access. Others, though, are very angry not just because they have to pay fees but also because there have been problems with the number of meters that are available to them and the inaccessibility of the meters themselves for some people to be able to operate. Recently, in the last few years, meters...
NNAMDIWell, when you say it's a mixed bag, there are those people who obviously are dissatisfied with it. You seem, I guess, when you say mixed bag, it also suggests that there are some people who like it.
DORISThere are some people who originally felt as the gentleman from VA that it's a matter of equal access and that we have rights and responsibilities. But as far as many people in the local community, they were very unhappy. One of the things that was in -- that Arlington did do is do a very comprehensive outreach program before implementing the parking. And it was also a matter of open debate -- was something that was debated in front of the county board so people had an opportunity to express their opinions about it. Say again.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, Doris. Apparently, you and somebody else is having a conversation in the -- having a conversation in the background.
DORISNo. Not where I am. The other thing that's happened is that Alexandria now, on the other hand, twice has re-passed the proposal too.
NNAMDIDoris, your phone is breaking up, and we're not hearing you very well so -- but I think we've got enough of your conversation to get a gist. I'd like to just go back to Betsy Luecking for a second because Montgomery County recently introduced a campaign known as Respect the Space. Can you tell us about that?
LUECKINGYes. Our county executive, Ike Leggett, launched a press conference on November 21. And what this is about is to Respect the Space meaning what's it's for, and its purpose is for people who need it, who are medically certified to be able to park, to be able to go about their life and have a decent quality of life. So what we did is we -- our chief of police Tom Manger was there as well. It's basically an education campaign to strengthen enforcement of existing laws that we have on the books.
LUECKINGWhat we're going to do is we're gonna be going out to all the parking lots on Montgomery County, the shopping centers to make sure that there's properly striped adequate parking spaces. A lot of people don't know what an access aisle is. It's the aisle that has the stripes in them, and sometimes people have dumpsters in them or sometimes there's snow in them. And we wanna go around and make sure that there are appropriate signage on -- in all of our lots.
LUECKINGAnother thing that we want is to have people understand that they need to have their certificate on them when they're out in public. If they get out of their car, a police officer legally can ask them for the certificate 'cause oftentimes people borrow these placards. There's a financial...
LUECKINGYes, they do. And sometimes in the city of Baltimore, they have a problem there with people breaking into vehicles to steal them...
NNAMDIYes, I read about that.
LUECKING...because they can sell them on the market 'cause they're actually worth what? $25 a day for downtown parking. And so that's been a real reason that people have committed fraud in the use of these placards. So we wanna strengthen enforcement, we wanna get our lots all striped properly so that a police officer can write a ticket when somebody is in the spot. One thing a lot of people don't realize is if there is a painting of a wheelchair on the surface. A police officer can't write a ticket unless there -- it's on seven-foot pole with a tag because a person can pull into the parking space if you...
NNAMDICannot see that.
LUECKING...cannot see it. So there's a lot of things about parking. It's kind of complex that we want the public to better understand and so we got -- the police department, our permitting services and our county executive who's strongly behind beefing up education about this issue.
NNAMDIBetty Luecking is the disability policy specialist with Montgomery County. She joins us in studio along with Terry Bellamy. He is the director of the District Department of Transportation. And Bob Herman is the senior advocacy for Paralyzed Veterans of America. We're talking about the new red top meters in the District of Columbia for persons with disabilities.
NNAMDIMain two differences: There are now specific parking meters for persons with disabilities, 1,500 of them -- there never used to be -- and that persons with disabilities who have placards or stickers will now have to pay for those spaces. What's your opinion? Do you think people with disability tags should pay for parking? 800-433-8850. Do you have a placard or license plate indicating a disability? What are the parking rules in where you live? 800-433-8850. Here is Matilda in Washington, D.C. Matilda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MATILDAHi, Kojo. I'm standing 3rd and V Street, and I have walked to one block from the half lot, and I have seen eight red top meters.
NNAMDISix red top meters.
NNAMDIYou have seen six red top meters.
MATILDARight, in one and a half lot. And two of them were occupied by those cars that show handicap stickers and the others are all unoccupied. And so this seems extraordinary to have some (word?) down here. I would have thought that there will be more spread out where people would -- handicap stickers would be more likely to park and, of course, I have no idea whether or not people would be, you know, been pulling up there.
MATILDABut just seeing so many of them vacant, I would have thought that parking in certain areas would be more -- handicap parking would be more -- in more demand in other areas than perhaps...
NNAMDIWell, allow me to have Terry Bellamy respond even though I am sure that the reason they are vacant is the precise purpose that they are there so that other people don't take up those spots so that someone with a disability can take them. But what Matilda seems to be saying is that they seem to be clustered downtown.
BELLAMYRight. Right now, in the rollout, we rolled them out in the central business district area and in the southwest waterfront area. We started doing parking data collection back in 2007, continued until we rolled them out, looking at areas where we had high ADA placard usage. So what you will see right now is, based on that usage, we basically rolled out the meters to meet the demand. As we get into other areas, as I indicated before, we're trying to have a placard in those key locations, excuse me, a red top meter in those key blocks at their locations.
BELLAMYWhat we found out that -- in our research is about 42 percent of the vehicles displaying placards or license plates in our survey overstay at the meters for a long period of time. And what we also found out is it was clustered around the federal cluster. So we try to make sure that we put enough red top meters in those locations to make sure we met that demand for the short-term turnover.
NNAMDIMatilda, thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Rita who says, "Yes, I do feel the disabled should pay for their parking fees. The taxpayer provides the advantage spaces and rightfully so. I think requiring payment of fees would deter illegal disabled tag use throughout the metro area." That's one of the issues we'll deal with when we come back after this short break. But if you'd like to join the conversation, you can still call us at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIHave you seen the new red top meters in the District? 800-433-8850. You can tell us what you think of the District's new disability parking rules at our website, kojoshow.org. Or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're talking about the District of Columbia's new red top meters, specifically for persons with disabilities and the way the rules are being rolled out and some objections to them. Our guests: Terry Bellamy is the director of the District Department of Transportation, Betsy Luecking is the disability policy specialist with Montgomery County, and Bob Herman is the senior advocacy attorney for Paralyzed Veterans of America.
NNAMDITerry Bellamy, fraudulent use of accessible parking spots got a lot of attention back in September of 2010. You'll remember people parking in handicapped spaces and using the tags when they themselves aren't disabled. A woman parks her Lexus downtown in a disabled parking space using an accessible hangtag on the rearview mirror, which turned out to be her husband's. What's the fine for that?
BELLAMYI don't know the exact fine for fraudulent use. But if they were sighted and it was not theirs, if you park in a ADA accessible space the fine is $250.
NNAMDI$250. The online comments and articles that followed the revelation that the woman who's using her husband's tag express mostly outrage. How does the District ensure that someone using a disability tag is the person with the disability?
BELLAMYThat's very hard. As you all know, the Department of Public Works is the ticket writers for the District. DDOT has the ability of writing tickets. And I wanna say I know that 20 agencies can write parking-related tickets. If you don't see the person, when they leave the automobile, to check the certification of the ADA placard, it's almost impossible to know if they are ADA and they are using their own placard.
NNAMDIBetsy, as part of the respect the space campaign, Montgomery County is cracking down on people fraudulently using these spots. Can you tell us about what Montgomery County is doing?
LUECKINGWell, in Maryland law, a police officer can ask a person to see the certificate. It's a little -- yes, Bob. You probably have one that you carry with you.
LUECKINGAnd a police officer can stop you. Nobody else can ask you for it, though. It has to be a police officer, and the person has to show it. Now, if they refuse to show it or say they don't have it, they will get a $250 fine.
NNAMDIDo you mind having to carry that certificate wherever you go, Bob?
HERMANNo, it doesn't bother me in the least.
NNAMDIAnd the certificate, I'm assuming, is separate from the tag itself, from the placard and the tag.
HERMANYeah. It's like a little business card.
NNAMDIAnd you take that wherever you go.
HERMANI just stick it in my wallet.
LUECKINGRight, in the wallet. Now the other thing is the person has to be in the vehicle. So sometimes -- let's say, a person has a child with a disability, a wheelchair user perhaps. That child must be in the car when they're parking in a designated space. If not, they can get a fine as well if stopped. So, I mean, police officers have the enforcement authority. They just need to use it. And that's true, I believe, throughout the state of Maryland. I don't know if that's true in the District. Terry?
NNAMDIIn the District of Columbia, Terry Bellamy, people do not have to carry such a certificate. So it's -- it would become difficult for a police officer or any kind of traffic enforcement person to know if the person who's using the vehicle is actually the person who has -- to whom the placard was issued.
BELLAMYThat's a good question, and I don't have the answer this time, but that would be something that I would double-check because, again, not only police, but TCOs and parking enforcement officers write citations.
NNAMDIBut, Bob, on the other hand, most people have, at one time or another, seen someone pull into a disabled parking spot, hop out of the car and walk away. We've heard this before, but can you remind us why we might think twice before assuming that this is fraud?
HERMANYeah. Being entitled -- meeting the requirements for park -- having a placard or plate doesn't necessarily mean that you use it -- doesn't mean you're gonna use a wheelchair. There's other ways of qualifying: difficulty in walking, difficulty in breathing. There's a whole set of criteria.
NNAMDIYou can't basically, Betsy, assume anything by looking at anyone.
LUECKINGOh, you certainly can't 'cause there's many medical conditions that would entitle you to have a certificate. One would be, say, a heart condition, and people shouldn't make judgments. However, you know, sometimes it's a -- like somebody said somebody gets out of a vehicle with a hard hat on and runs down the street, you're thinking, well, I don't know about that. But for the most part, you just have to allow police enforcement to be the ones who would do the challenging to the individual, not yourself. And I definitely don't recommend citizens stopping each other to ask them.
NNAMDIWhat's the process for getting a disability tag?
LUECKINGYou have to be certified by your physician, and then send it into the MVA.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Phil in D.C. "I don't understand the color red for handicap meters when blue is the standard for handicap parking." There's a reason for that, Terry Bellamy?
BELLAMYYeah. It goes -- I asked the same question. We put out the blue top meters when we were basically trying to meet the accessibility. And those blue top meters that we put out several years ago, both ADA placards could park there, as well as the regular community. So in doing the research, they changed the color to red because red is only for ADA placard use only. And those meters will be made accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week for ADA.
NNAMDIThose objecting to this are lined up on the phone. We'll start with Stuart in Washington, D.C. Stuart, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STUARTThank you. Seems to me that all we're really talking about is an attempt to increase revenue. If...
NNAMDIStuart, I can't hear you. Go ahead, please.
STUARTIf there are some people who are breaking rules, why not punish them? There's an old saying: The floggings will continue until morale improves. Again, we're punishing the many for the sins of the few.
NNAMDIDo you think the system in place is adequate enough, Stuart?
STUARTI thought the older system was fine. Now we're doing something to make things much more difficult and looking for more revenue.
NNAMDITerry Bellamy, if ain't broke, don't fix it. What was the reason for doing this in the first place, Terry Bellamy?
BELLAMYIt actually goes back to 2004, 2005 when the District of Columbia basically started making parking accessible. And from 2005 to now, it took us that long to find the technology and to make the curbs ADA-accessible. And so that's why it's rolling out now -- actually, in late 2011, the summer of 2011. So it took us from 2005 to now to get the program in place.
NNAMDIBob Herman, do you see this as being a program that is long overdue?
HERMANYeah, actually I do, and it sounds to me like the District has done its due diligence.
NNAMDIIn researching this?
HERMANIn researching this.
NNAMDIOn to the telephone. We'll see if there's agreement with you on this from Barry in Reston, Va. Barry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BARRYHi. Yeah. The problem I see is that we've got parking enforcement unable to do its job, and so we're going to charge all handicapped folks. If parking enforcement...
NNAMDII gotta tell you this, Barry, I have never heard, since I've been in the District of Columbia, anybody say parking enforcement does not do its job. Most of the complaints you hear in the District of Columbia is that parking enforcement is way too zealous in the District of Columbia, but, please, go ahead. I'm sorry I interrupted you.
BARRYI think that -- that's okay. That's part of their -- not doing their job, OK, correctly. If they were asking for ID with that parking placard as well, I don't think anybody who legitimately has one would have a problem with that. This would make sure that fraud was cut down, and the people committing the fraud would be the ones paying extra, not every disabled veteran like myself.
NNAMDIThere seems to be a technical difficulty in the District of Columbia, Terry Bellamy, with parking enforcement asking people who have disability parking for IDs.
BELLAMYOn a given day, there's maybe 20,088 placards in the District of Columbia. Our parking enforcement is a small amount. They would not be there when a person park. And so that's the key, is how many would you be able to check during the course of a day? But I think that it's very interesting from Maryland and Virginia perspective. And we'll double-check that, but they come in and they park. And...
NNAMDIBetsy Luecking, he mentioned 20,000 on any given day. There's also something called a temporary disability tag for a broken ankle, that kind of thing. Does that open up an avenue for misuse?
LUECKINGWell, no, because they actually do expire.
NNAMDIAnd they have an expiration date on them.
LUECKINGThey have -- yes. They do have an expiration date, so that they're not the ones that are getting stolen out of cars. It's the permanent ones.
NNAMDIBarry, thank you very much for your call. Here is Charles in Falls Church, Va. Charles, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHARLESYeah. Ms. Bellamy, I hope you're hearing me. At any rate, I'm concerned about the distribution of the red top meters. I was at the corner of New York Avenue and 12th on Friday. They're -- I saw them clustered at that one spot, and there are many, many spots in the District which have no red top meters. Furthermore, the -- many of the areas which have the parking kiosks that's been provided for folks with handicaps...
NNAMDIThe complaint again about the clustering. Do you have an idea, Terry Bellamy, of how many red top meters there are, say, in each ward of the city?
BELLAMYNo, I don't have in front of me, but right, now we are rolling them out. So you're gonna see in some areas that the red tops are not there yet, and that's part of that May enforcement. We're constantly rolling them out into various areas. We're looking at the usage. The smarter need is which has come in unique, basically tell us the usage. So as we rolling them out, if they are using in the IPS meter, it tell us what the usage.
BELLAMYIf they are paying by cell using on those meters, then our cell provider is telling us to use it. So we're looking at where and how much those meters are being used. And that's the key is that we now have the technology to give us information that we didn't have before.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Charles. Here is Jack in Fairfax County, Va. Jack, your turn.
JACKHi there, Kojo. I thought you mentioned in an experience that I had week before last.
JACKI live in Fairfax County, but I was Arlington going to Signature Theater at night. It was dark. It was after the time that meters are charged, and I saw an empty meter and parked there. Well, you know how much ticket was for? You might say $250.
JACKNo. Three hundred, no. Five hundred dollars. Something like that.
NNAMDIWere you parked on -- were you parked on a meter set aside for persons with disabilities and was that...
JACKI did without realizing it was, and it was $500. How do you like that?
NNAMDIWell, I'm not liking it yet, but how did you not realize that this was a parking meter for persons with disabilities?
JACKIt was a string of about six meters, and there was one of them empty. And I parked there. It was dark, there was, you know, you didn't have to put any money in the meter, so I didn't pay any attention. And I didn't never heard about red top meters anyway to tell the truth. There was a sign there, I looked afterwards, but I didn't notice it at the time. So 500 bucks, how do you like that?
NNAMDII don't like it at all, Jack, but I...
JACKSo do I.
NNAMDI...strongly advice that you pay it 'cause there are some things that we have to do that we don't like at all. This is something of a public service announcement, Betsy and Bob. You would like to remind people about disabled parking spots in general. You mentioned it earlier, Betsy, the parallel lines next to spaces that are there for a reason, and the reason is if you happen to be as in Bob's case, in a wheelchair, you need clearance because if you happen to be driving a van, the door can't be opened.
HERMANWell, it can't be opened, you can't get out. What's maddening and what's happened to me on a number of occasions is I come back, I get out of the van just fine. I come back and somebody's parked in that access aisle. You may gotta wait around for someone to come back.
NNAMDIHere's -- and here finally, from the other side of the coin, so to speak, is Jim in Washington, D.C. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JIMActually, I'm in Rockville. You know, I get a little -- I have a family member who's disabled, and I'm one of those people who is constantly getting abused by my fellow citizens who see me out of the car and going to a building to pick her up and come back with a wheelchair and don't know the second half of that story. Or, you know, if I pull into the space and I get out of the car, pulling into handicap space and I get of the car and leave my handicap (word?) there.
JIMYou know, that's because I want her to have the freedom to maybe make choice to get out of the car a little later on. You know, I don't wanna hear from people every time a healthy person uses things that is fraudulent, it's not.
NNAMDIAnd you don't want to give your license place out on the air either to stop people from doing that. So I think you have a dilemma that we cannot solve for you at this time, Jim. But thank you very much for your call. It's all the time we have. Terry Bellamy, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDITerry Bellamy is director of the District Department of Transportation. Betsy Luecking, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIShe is the disability policy specialist with Montgomery County. Bob Herman, thank you for joining.
NNAMDIBob Herman is the senior advocacy attorney for Paralyzed Veterans of America. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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