Richmond to curb ‘abuse and misuse’ of accessible parking permits

Parking at city meters has long been free for motorists with accessible parking permits, but now the rules are getting stricter.  - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Parking at city meters has long been free for motorists with accessible parking permits, but now the rules are getting stricter.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

Richmond city council is tightening up a 10-year-old policy that allows motorists with accessible parking permits to park for free in city lots and streets.

Current rules allow all motorists with a valid permit to avoid city parking fees and time limits. But on Monday, civic politicians voted to restrict the freebie to Richmond residents and enforce a two-hour time limit.

In a letter to council earlier this year, Richmond Centre for Disability executive director Ella Huang urged the city for stricter controls to “deter abuse and misuse” of accessible parking permits.

Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt said the city’s generosity is one of the drivers that led to abuse.

“I think everyone of us in this room has experienced where you pull into the grocery store and a young, able-bodied person pulls into (an accessible stall), and they jump out and run in,” said Halsey-Brandt at Monday night’s council meeting. “I’ve stopped trying to ask them not to do that, because the last time I was physically assaulted.”

Permits are issued on behalf of the province by numerous agencies—including Richmond Centre for Disability—not city hall. City hall officials will now work with the centre to create a vehicle decal for local motorists to continue to qualify for free parking.

Richmond Centre for Disability staff will determine who would receive the free parking decal, according to bylaws manager Wayne Mercer.

The new limits could add $3,000 in parking revenue to the city’s coffers, according to a staff report.

Staff noted no other neighbouring municipalities with pay parking programs offer free parking to people with disabilities.

Other issues relating to accessible parking—fines for misuse of permits, exclusive on-street parking for permit holders—need more discussion, council heard.

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