The District Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it will speed up the installation of the new red top meters, so that by mid-April about 9 percent of the city’s metered spaces will be reserved for people with disabilities.
DDOT said the goal in adding 1,100 of the red tops is to provide more reserved parking in areas with high demand.
The initial program distributed 400 of these reserved meters through the central business district and streets around federal buildings in Southwest Washington.
Under the new rules, everyone must pay at D.C. meters, even if they have valid placards or plates indicating a disability. The complaints I’ve heard aren’t about the requirement to pay. They are about the part of the program that restricts double-time parking at meters other than the reserved red tops.
Before the new reserved parking program went into effect, motorists with valid placards or plates could park at any of the city’s 17,000 metered spaces and stay for twice the normal time.
Some people say they need the extra time more than the reserved parking.
The District has been planning to expand the number of red tops and takes requests for them through the mayor’s 311 call center, but this announcement about the accelerated distribution is welcome.
The DDOT announcement also includes several important details about parking between now and April 17, by which time the city should have a total of 1,500 red top meters.
Only vehicles displaying a valid disability placard or plate may park at a red top. (And they must pay.) Vehicles without the placard or plate will be subject to ticketing. The fine is $250.
Vehicles displaying a valid placard or plate may park at any D.C. meter and stay for up to twice the time, with the proper payment. This applies even if it’s just a regular meter. But the motorist would have to either return to the regular meter and deposit coins for the extra time or use the pay-by-cell system to add the extra time.
Motorists who exceed the time allowed may be ticketed. The fine is $25.
Starting April 17, D.C. will go back to the original plan: Vehicles with the proper placards or plates will be able to park for double time only at the reserved red top meters.
There are two types of red tops. One type allows motorists to insert coins or a credit card, or pay by cell for up to twice the amount of time allowed without returning to the meter. The other type accepts coins or a cell phone payment. A motorist who uses this second type of red top will need to either return to the meter to add the extra time or add it through the cell phone system. The fine for exceeding the time limit is $25.
Kind of complicated, isn’t it?
I understand the District’s goal: If everyone must pay everywhere and overtime parking is legal only at the red tops, then cheaters won’t have an incentive to take up spaces that could be occupied by disabled people. It’s similar to the “all must pay” program in Arlington County.
But disabled people don’t all park downtown or around the federal buildings. The initial offering of red tops seems to have been too small. It would be a shame if the District made parking for the disabled more difficult in some neighborhoods while opening it up for them in the middle of the city.