Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said Thursday she will introduce an emergency bill, perhaps as soon as next Tuesday, that will for all intents and purposes end the new “red-top” meter program debuted recently by the city transportation department.
Heretofore, holders of disabled parking placards could park in any metered space free of charge for up to double the posted time limit. Under the new program, placard holders would now pay for their parking and have no special time privileges at regular meters. However, for the first time, the city is reserving spaces — nearly one in 10 — for disabled parkers only, marking them with red-painted meters. Non-placard holders who park in those spaces would be subject to $250 tickets.
The change has been met with confusion and, in some cases, fury.
”Nobody really quite understands how this came to be or why the mayor decided to move on it now,” Bowser said in an interview. “We really need to take a pause and make sure there’s enough reserved parking. ... This amounts to a very serious policy change, and we have to have a public hearing.”
Bowser added that she’s heard from constituents — particularly senior citizens — who “see it as an additional fee on disabled and senior people and they don’t understand why it’s being unloaded on them at this time without a public debate.”
Her bill would prohibit ticket-writers from citing parked vehicles displaying a disability placard — provided, according to a memo sent to council members and staff, “that the vehicle abides by all posted ‘No Parking’ signs, and so long as the person with the disability is present in the vehicle displaying a special permit either when the vehicle is driven into or when it is driven out of the space.”
John Lisle, a transportation department spokesman, did not have immediate comment on Bowser’s bill, but noted that the department has delayed enforcement until next month while 1,100 additional “red tops” are added to the 400 already on city streets.
”We’ve made some changes based on some of the feedback we’ve gotten,” he said.