Dear PoP – Handicap Parking Discount?

“Dear PoP:

I work in a large building downtown, between George Washington University, a park and several Federal government buildings. Due to medical appointments about twice a month I drive to work and pay to park at parking meters, moving my car several times a day to avoid being ticketed.

It used to be quite competitive finding a space until DC raised its hourly meter rate to $2 an hour. After that most people seemed to give up on the street parking and instead parked in garages or took Metro which I guess was the point of it. However, in the past few months more and more of the parking places are taken up by those with handicap placards and most of them are from Virgina and Maryland. DC allows 4 hours of free parking at a meter if you have a handicap placard so if these people move their cars once (and I rarely see the parking control officers monitor this) they get free parking for 8 hours valued at $16!

At lunch today I did an informal survey and noticed about 75% of the cars parked on my block were getting free on-street parking at meters. Has anyone else noticed this in other areas? Is it fair that DC allows out-of-state commuters this free parking benefit if they have a handicap placard? From my observation most drivers seem to be heading across the park to Federal office buildings, so should the Feds be paying DC to accommodate the parking needs of their handicapped employees?”

I think the bigger questions is whether or not the people are really handicapped. I remember the Post had a story (and a number of follow up stories) about this after a women complained that her car was towed but she said it had a handicap placard then it turned out the placard was for her husband (who wasn’t there).

But to the original question – do you think there should be a discount for handicap parking?

68 Comment

  • I don’t think there should be a discount for handicapped parking, but I do think that more handicapped only spaces should be offered (not only on the streets, but in garages, etc., where handicapped spaces are often scarce).

    As to the question of whether or not people are actually handicapped, I think people tend to blow the number of non-handicapped people using handicapped permits way out of proportion. And I think it’s to the detriment of many people who don’t initially appear handicapped, but have a legitimate and real need for the permit. For example, my mother has MS and can’t walk long distances, but doesn’t always need her cane. She sometimes takes it with her because people assume she’s not actually handicapped when she doesn’t have it. (She doesn’t get the same/as many looks and comments now that she’s in her 60’s, but she got them all of the time when she was in her 30’s; it was quite frustrating for her.)

  • My girlfriend does this when she’s borrowing her mother’s car– it drives me crazy! She’s a kind, thoughtful, and generous person otherwise, but there’s some kind of overriding mindset that as long as the car has handicap tags it’s ok.

    • Sorry but your girlfriend is NOT a “kind, thoughtful, and generous person”; she is selfish, thoughtless and entitled. Please feel free to show her this post.

      • Agreed ++.

        Would you think your girlfriend is kind and thoughtful when a person who is handicapped can’t find a place to park because your able bodied girlfriend has used a permit she isn’t entitled to use??

        • Well to be fair she only has her mom’s car when she’s taking her mom to work so she doesn’t have to be out i nthe cold.

          • It’s win-win! Your girlfriend doesn’t have to drive her own car and Mom gets dropped off at her door BUT YOUR GF STILL SHOULDN’T PARK IN HANDICAPPED SPACES!

          • Yeah. My mom has a handicap tag and when I was driving her around between chemo appts I would pull into the handicap spot long enough to get her from the car to whatever building we were going to and then go move the car to a regular spot. I don’t need the short distance, so I opened it up for people who did.

    • My husband and I get in a fight about this every time we borrow his grandmothers car. He has the same mindset that since the car has a handicap tag then it is always ok to park in a handicap spot. My in laws do the same thing. Drives me crazy.

      • It’s not the car that’s handicapped, it’s the person that is handicapped.

        If grandmother isn’t in the car, then husband and in-laws are being selfish and thoughtless.

  • In Va. Handicrappers have to pay. In DC on my street one of the residents has a sign that reserves her street space for Handicap specific to her Handicap tag serial id. So even if my Dad comes down with his handicap tags, he cannot take that spot. I think it’s BS. I don’t think the city should be allowed to reserve a public roadway for one particular resident on that street.

    • Would your opinion change if that person was your mother or father? Or would you have no problem with one of your parents, let’s say for the sake of argument they’re in a wheelchair and need a space appropriate for accomodating a wheelchair lift, having to circle for parking until finding an appropriate spot to accomodate them and then traveling several blocks in their wheelchair (and let’s face it, DC’s residential sidewalks are not always the best maintained) because that’s the closest spot they could find? Personally, I’m fine with giving them a space – as long as the person truly needs it, of course.

      • This wouldn’t bother me at all since you know that one person really needs it and there isn’t the worry about someone else taking advantage of it who doesn’t. Handicapped residents living in DC have enough of a rough life to deal with, if they get one dedicated parking spot in front of their residence then its the least we can do. Your dad potentially having to deal with this one the few visits he may pay a year is not nearly the burden as someone who LIVES on that street and would have to contend with this battle every day.

        • +++1

          Pokerface, stop whining. When your dad visits, have him get out of the car at your place and then YOU park it. Your entitlement attitude is off-putting.

    • me

      Please tell me that your typing “handiCRAPPERS” was unintentional.

  • Just like the blind pay lower taxes, I think it makes sense for the handicapped to get little perqs here and there. It simply costs more to live a handicapped life, and it costs the rest of us relatively little to acknowledge that and facilitate.
    I WOULD like to see more stringent criteria for use of handicapped tags, and I would happily attend the public flogging of individuals using their grandma’s tags.

    • I am not normally a supporter of public flogging…but the “Grandma’s Handi Tags” scam is soooo prevalent in downtown DC (from Union Station all the way to G Town) that I’d be willing to make an exception in this case.

      …and yes I say scam because in my experience these tags seem to very often be on the cars of people who are not visibly disabled. You know, like the ~40 yr old guy with the Yellow 2010 Dodge Charger w/ MD plates walking into an office building near 2nd and E st NW.

      I am no doctor, and I accept that there are a percentage of people whose elderly/disabled status are not visible from 15 ft away, but is this non-obvious disability group really the *majority* of people with Handi-tags?

    • How do the blind pay lower taxes? What about a blind lawyer making 200k?

      And +1 on the public flogging for cheaters. I’d add keelhauling as well.

  • I’ve noticed that same rate of use at meters by my office (on L’Enfant Promenade). I think the free usage should be limited to 2 hours or limit the meters per block (2-4) that are specifically reserved for those with disabilities that neccesitate a parking permit.
    The fine for misusing those permits should be massive.

  • Policies and allowances for drivers with disabilities aren’t favors or perks. Accessible vans are refused entry to virtually every garage in the city – mostly b/c of height restrictions, but also because of inaccessible pathways back to street level and plain old discrimination. Union Station and a couple others being the few exceptions. As for restricted spaces, there is more to parking a vehicle with a lift than you might think… a resident may need to reserve a particular spot on the street in order for his/her ramp to open and allow them in and out of the vehicle. This is a very reasonable accommodation. As for discounts… 75% of American’s with disabilities are unemployed. A bare bones accessible van can easily exceed $35,000. Affordable, accessible parking for people with disabilities, especially at jobs, is really, really important.

    • I don’t think most of us are talking about the handicap accessible vans. I’m talking about the Mercedes, BMWs, Lexuses and Range Rovers parked around government buuildings getting free parking from DC. If they can afford a $50,000 car on a government salary they can probably afford to pay to park.

  • I have no problem with the DC government deciding that people who qualify for a handicap badge or plate for their vehicle should get free or discounted parking.
    And I have no problem with DC allowing this “benefit” to both its own handicapped residents and to handicapped residents of other states. If the non-DC drivers using these spots are not handicapped, they should be prosecuted. But if your only issue is that they are not from DC, and there is no indication that they are taking spaces that handicapped DC residents would otherwise take, I can’t say that bothers me too much.

    • I don’t understand why it matters what state the car is from.

      • Because it sounds like these are commuters, not people just visiting. So they are using resources on a daily basis in which they don’t pay for through taxes which drains money from a city that they don’t live in.

        • People who live in DC don’t commute within DC?

          • @10 February 2011 4:43 PM | Anonymous #

            You’re missing the point. Did you read the post? We are not talking about DC resident who aren’t handicapped parking in a handicapped spot all day while they’re at work! This is about Maryland and Virginia commuters hogging public spaces ON THE STREET and NOT Paying the $2 per hour meter rate. In other words free all day parking that if a paying driver parked there would garner $18-22 for DC.

          • That +100 was for w00T, not the Anon. person who thinks out of state commuters should get the same benefits as DC commuters.

          • You’re missing the point. What makes it right for a DC resident who’s not handicapped to park in a handicapped spot all day while they’re at work?

          • I think the point is that most of us commenting here tend to observe very few “suspicious” DC handi-tag parkers, and mostly MD/VA handi-tag parkers.

            From my observations, it seems that most DC residents who’d be eligible for handi-tag actually make use of public transit anyway…

          • I really don’t think anyone’s keeping accurate tallies here, but if you’re noticing more VA/MD tags it’s probably because VA/MD residents comprise most of the workforce in DC. It’s like saying we should only ticket cars for paking illegally, because there’s more of them than motorcycles.

          • …I agree that the comprise a higher share of the work force than DC residents…but they also comprise a FAR, FAR higher share of the *car-driving* workforce.

          • Well obviously. You can’t really expect them to swim across the river.

          • Actually I think most people on this site do seriously expect commuters to swim.

          • Funny thing is, if cars will eliminated you people would have nothing to complain about.

            Well, except the resulting increase in metrorail and cab fares, and having to wait two hours to get on a bus that’s not filled to capacity.

  • This is a huge problem at the NASA building in SW. The proportion of handicapped tagged cars is highly improbable on every weekday. I wish they would stop and ask people for the accompanying card that identifies the person and their tag.

    My mom has a handicapped tag and while free parking is nice, I would much rather prefer more on-street designated handicapped spots. It’s not much help to have a handicapped tag if parking is free 10 blocks away from our destination. Her problem is not money, it’s walking.

  • It is not enforced but..

    In DC you cannot use any other state’s handicapped permit to park for free. You have to have a DDOT issued handicap permit.

    I know this because I had some family coming in from New York and they did their research and complained a lot about how they could use their Handicap permit when they went to Europe and used it on the rentals there but they couldnt do the same when they drove to DC.

    Then again, they are an 80 yr old couple and follow the laws, even thought they could have gone by as this isnt enforced.. they ended up parking in a garage and taking cabs to do their business..

    This is strange, seeing the only efficient department in DC is parking enforcement

  • I’ve never seen such a group of such self righteous nit pickers. From whining about drivers who speed 5mph over the speed limit to someone using a handicapped tag who isnt handicapped. Dont you guys have more to worry about?

    Sure, I can see why the handicapped thing is a crappy thing to do – but some of the comments lead me to believe some of you get REALLY bothered by it. Why do others’ actions upset you so much? Im really curious.

    • Also, the disdain for MD/VA drivers on this site is so ridiculous. DC is a city of transients. Everyone came from somewhere else and the ones who didnt, dont care if you’re from DC/MD/VA. There is a huge amount of camaraderie from folks who grew up in this area and the borders are basically arbitrary. I find its usually transplants who have such venom toward MD and VA people. MD and VA people have just as many rights to use parking spots and streets and everything else as you do.

      Or, let me guess, you also dont like mexicans, because they’re not americans? Oh ok.

      • Dear Kettle: Love, Pot. Your words seem pretty self righteous.

        I dislike people using the handicapped tags in full parking lots because they are actively taking something away from other people who need it. It’s the sense of entitlement that really irks me. Usually it’s an expensive car as well. “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo. I can afford all this sweet stuff and have a high paying secure job, but I’ve just got to screw DC out of money.”

        As for the non-Washingtonian thing, I don’t get that either. I want to live in DC, so I do. Others don’t, so they don’t. But in this issue it may be that out of state people who pay taxes elsewhere are depriving DC of a source of income.

      • saf

        “DC is a city of transients. Everyone came from somewhere else”

        Sorry, not true.

    • saf

      I know how hard it is to get a handicapped tag. I also know how essential that little bit is to those who need it.

      Makes me angry to see idiots take advantage.

    • me

      Well it upsets me because as I am handicapped (from an accident a little over 3 years ago now), I can walk with my cane but it really sucks. So it would be super nice to get to walk shorter distances. Instead of walking a few blocks, parking in a spot deemed “handicapped tags only” would be optimal. But instead, I see a car parked there and see the person literally jogging back to their car to get in. Yes, that has happened a few times.

  • I guess I’m one of these people…partially.

    I drive one of my parent’s Mercedes and it has handicap tags. I have NEVER park in handicap parking space, unless my mother is with me who is handicapped, but I don’t pay meters…maybe I will re-think that policy of mine. I figure I pay enough to the district in taxes and fees and still rack up plenty of tickets for non-expired meter reason i.e. street cleaning.

    With that being said, I usually only park at meters when I’m at the gym for an hour or so or only running into a CVS type store to grab something and not for my dialing parking at work.

  • I’m so glad I take the bus or metro, and don’t have to worry about this madness. It still seems crazy to me that we think it’s a good idea for everyone to drive 4,000 lbs of steel, rubber, and gasoline to get to work everyday. No thanks. Make it all available for the handicapped or unloading zones, and lots of bike parking.

  • Know what? I’m glad I DON’T have to use the Handicapped spot.Count your blessings and walk.

    Bitch if you like about the empty space or the jerk that parked there…but be glad you can walk.

  • A 35-year old secreatary in my office has been taking advantage of this every day for years. Her father is eligible for a handicap placard because of an ailment, but he does not drive. So she puts the placard in her own car, drives from Maryland to DC (Foggy Bottom) every day and gets $16 worth of free parking. She is in perfect physical condition. Do people have no shame?

    • me

      I’ve seen people use handicapped placards to park close to a gym. I’ve seen them get out of their cars, go into the gym with workout clothes and all. I’ve even seen them jog. It’s bull.

    • I would have reported her or the tag number by now. That’s BS. If you feel guilty describe the car and general location and I’ll take car of it.

  • My boyfriend is a wounded soldier, he has FL tags and a FL parking handicap placard. He takes advantage of the handicapped parking and we often take his car instead of mine when we go out because of the benefit of the free parking. He’d love to not have to use it but the Taliban effed that one up for him. I am not saying all these folks are legit but please note that some of these families may be military and thus don’t have to change their plates when they move.

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