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Novick seeks change to disabled parking

City panel asked for proposals to resolve downtown issue


Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick is getting serious about changing city policies governing use of disabled parking placards at on-street parking spots.

Novick, Portland’s transportation commissioner, sent a letter recently to the city’s Disabled Parking Task Force asking for proposals to address the long-running downtown problem.

Novick told the Tribune Wednesday that a few weeks ago he walked about five blocks surrounding City Hall and found more than half the on-street parking spaces were taken up by vehicles with disabled parking placards.

As detailed in a July 11 Tribune story, most of those cars belong to downtown workers who keep their vehicles parked in metered spots all day. Parking spaces with one-hour or 90-minute limits are intended to encourage shoppers who make short visits and free up spaces for other shoppers. But those with disabled placards are allowed to park free for as long as they want.

Downtown business owners for years have complained that people with disabled permits parking all day are costing them business. As reported in the Tribune story, some cities have moved to a policy that requires drivers with disabled placards to pay for their parking. Those cities have found that the problem of all-day parking at metered spaces virtually disappears when payment is required.

Novick says his tour with a bureau of transportation parking enforcement officer was more than eye opening.

“I was just astonished,” Novick says. “More than half of the spaces were taken up with ‘disabled parking’ cars and it was obvious the vast majority were not equipped with wheelchairs.

“And I did notice that some of them were BMWs, so it was quite obvious that, A, at least some of the spaces were not occupied by people who had disabilities and, B, had no money to pay for parking.”

Disabled placards are provided to anyone with a physician-signed form that says their mobility is restricted. There is no standard for the disability.

Novick says he expects to hear new proposals from the task force within the next several months but he intends to move ahead on the parking problem whether the task force is able to reach a consensus or not.

“If the task force can’t come up with a proposal, we’ll have to come up with one ourselves,” he says.

Asked whether he expects a new policy to require drivers with disabled placards to pay for parking, Novick says that is “eminently possible.”