Citing what one councilmember decried as a system of "unbelievable abuse," the City Council on Dec. 13 agreed to bar free, all-day metered parking for people with disablities in Minneapolis.
The council voted 9-3 to eliminate the free parking by April 1, and replace it with free parking on one- and two-hour meters to a maximum of four hours for people with appropriate disability designations.
According to recent city surveys, 40 to 50 percent of Downtown street meters were taken by vehicles with disabled stickers or license plates.
Jeff Farman, an ECCO neighborhood resident who is wheelchair-bound, said he will not be drastically affected by the move because he does not commute Downtown much anymore. He stopped driving, he said, for precisely the reason that Councilmember Sandra Colvin Roy (12th Ward) cited while introducing the measure: there are no spaces available for on-street parking.
Farman said the few times he does drive Downtown to get to medical appointments, there is rarely enough turnover in the meters for him to find a place to park.
"And believe me," he said, "I've witnessed some very dubious use of those meters. I've seen SUVs with duck boats and ladders on top. What's happening here?"
Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) said, "We have got to get a grip over people who are abusing this privilege."
Shannon Fletcher, a Minneapolis traffic control agent, said she has only been on the job six months, but already she sees what she thinks is an unusual number of vehicles with handicap permits taking up parking meters, especially along Washington Avenue.
"That could be a lot of money that could go to the city," Fletcher said.
In fact, said Colvin Roy, revenues lost to meter cheaters could be as much as $1 million a year.
The city's new Parking Meter Management Plan eliminating all-day meters has several other prongs:
Barret Lane, one of three councilmembers voting against the move, said he thinks the city did not analyze the policy thoroughly enough to determine the overall taxpayer cost.
"We're offering free things to some people, we're taking away free things to other people, we're changing enforcement patterns, we're doing all kinds of stuff," Lane said. "But it's really unclear what the bottom line impact to all this is or would be. And until I understand that, I don't feel like we're making a business decision."
Farman, while mostly supporting the council's action, agreed the move might not have been as carefully considered as it should have been. For example, he said his 9-foot-tall vehicle can't fit in a parking ramp. And many van conversions used by disabled drivers don't work well in parking ramps where cars are squeezed together.
Natalie Johnson Lee (5th Ward) also voted against the proposal. She said she has received calls from constituents worried about how expensive the changes will be to them. Many in her ward, she said, are on fixed incomes.
"That's something I think we need to take into consideration," she said. "And I don't think we did that."