Handicapped must now pay to park

February 3, 2010 3:40:00 PM PST
Most street parking in downtown Raleigh is now free. But is that good or bad for business and should the disabled park for free?

Some say it encourages fraud. Now, big changes are coming as everyone will pay.

New curbside computers labeled with a capital p will have to be the first stop for anyone who wants to park on the street. Almost 200 of the pay stations are on the way.

Mayor Charles Meeker says it's good for business to make everyone pay a dollar per hour because it will force commuters to work all day downtown to use off-street parking garages.

"The goal is to have spaces available on the street for people who are coming downtown to shop or eat in restaurants. That's the purpose of the metered parking," Meeker explained.

But some shoppers and merchants don't buy it. Fuquay-Varina resident Nate Gould drove to Raleigh to shop in an antique store.

"I think it's a bad decision, especially now the way the economy is for shops like this," he offered.

The city insists it's not trying to make a profit, but parking officials do expect to write 63 percent more parking tickets.

And right now, so many people are parking for free on the street, and not paying to park in garages, that the city is taking in $3 million less per year in parking deck fees than it must pay each year on garage debt payments.

Taxpayers, not parkers, make up the difference.

"We're hopeful that over time, the decks will pay for themselves and won't require any transfer from the general fund," said Meeker.

And, the pay stations spell the end of free parking for the disabled. Some downtown streets are lined with disabled placards, and merchants have complained scammers are abusing the free parking privilege.

"Then they should go after the scammers and not take away the people who are legitimately handicapped. They shouldn't just take that privilege away from everyone," said disabled parker Reggie Pope.

A handful of disabled parkers told ABC11 they would have a hard time physically walking to and from city parking decks. But the daily rate on the street will add up to $180 a month.

No one said they would pay that.

Street parking will still be free after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

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