SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Amid allegations of widespread cheating, a state lawmaker wants to take away most free parking for the disabled.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, a series this week in the Chicago Sun-Times exposed how many able-bodied drivers are scamming the system by using fake, borrowed or even stolen handicap placards to park all day at metered spaces without paying anything.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports
Now, state Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park), who is retiring at the end of her current term, is proposing most disabled drivers lose their free parking privileges.
She tells the Sun-Times the only exceptions should be for those who are truly unable to feed the curbside pay boxes, or who meet certain low-income standards.
The city would not get any money from the money that disabled drivers would be required to feed into parking meters, as all parking meter revenue goes to the private company that runs the city’s parking meter system. The city would only get money from violations handed out to disabled drivers who failed to pay the required meter fees.
In 2008, the city entered a 75-year, $1.15 billion lease with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, a firm organized by Morgan Stanley, to privatize the collection of funds at meters.
In addition to jacking up rates and replacing the old parking meters with electronic pay boxes, the privatization deal also did away with free holiday parking and most free Sunday parking.
The parking meter deal has since been roundly criticized as a bad deal for the city and a bad deal for those who have to park here.
Free parking at meters for the disabled originated at a time when buses and trains were not accessible for the disabled, and coin-only parking meters had to be fed constantly, the Sun-Times pointed out.
The Sun-Times’ investigation this week found that there is one disabled placard in use for every 13 passenger vehicles in Cook County, and the system is widely abused.
The newspaper had retired Chicago Police Lt. Robert Angone stake out several areas in the South Loop and other parts of the city and watch for abuse. He found 82 incidences of people who appeared to be able-bodied parking their cars for free using the placards.
In the compact area bounded by Van Buren Street, Roosevelt Road, Desplaines Street and Canal Street, up to 60 cars were parked for free with handicap placards each day in September and October, the Sun-Times reported.
Under a proposed ordinance, the City would increase fines and authorize police to impound vehicles as an additional penalty for using fraudulent placards or misusing someone else’s placard.
Specifically, the ordinance would penalize violators who display a false, stolen or altered disability placard. They would be fined $500 to $1,000.
Also, any authorized owner of a disability placard who allows another person to use the placard illegally would be subject to a $200 fine.