The first on-street parking spaces designated for drivers with handicap placards in their cars or trucks are being installed in downtown Raleigh this month.
By Jan. 1, the city hopes to have 16 accessible parking spaces in place near key destinations such as city hall, the state museums of history and natural science and the Glenwood South entertainment district. While city parking decks have long had spots set aside for people with disabilities, these 16 will be the first on-street accessible parking spaces in the city’s history, said Tony Howard, a parking analyst for the city.
“We don’t know how we’ve made it this far,” Howard said.
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act does not require cities to provide handicap-accessible on-street parking, Howard said. Instead, the city has allowed people with handicap placards to park on the street all day — for free in non-metered spots and at regular rates in metered ones. Drivers will be able to pay to remain in the new spots as long as they like as well, Howard said.
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In addition to being marked with signs and blue paint on the pavement, the new spots will be located closest to wheelchair ramps and other access points to the sidewalk.
The city plans to monitor the use of the handicap spots over the next 12 months, said Ricky Scott, a member of the Mayor’s Committee for Person’s with Disabilities, which pressed for the on-street parking and helped determine where the spaces would be located. Those that aren’t used much will be moved.
“There’s going to be an evaluation process,” Scott said. “Data will be gathered. If there’s no utilization, that will be reassessed. It’s an evolving process.”
Scott said he expects that with an increasing number of people with disabilities coming downtown the number of on-street accessible spots will grow in time.
“This is just the beginning,” he said.