Disability spaces getting meters
Crews from the University of Illinois this week will begin installing meters in disabled-parking spaces across campus, allowing the university to charge motorists with disabilities who do not have meter-exempt placards.
The UI's installation of 150 meters at spaces designated for disabled parking — where there were no meters previously — comes on the heels of the General Assembly's passage of legislation that essentially created a tiered system for drivers who hold disability placards.
Under the old rules, anyone with such a placard could park in meters for free. To receive one of the new meter-exempt placards, which are yellow and gray, people must have an Illinois driver's license and a physician's certificate showing that they meet certain criteria, including "significant impairments" that make it difficult to access a meter.
The legislation was prompted by allegations of abuse in Chicago, where the city leased its parking meters to a for-profit company. Enforcement of the new regulations took effect in January.
But just because the law allows agencies and municipalities to install meters and charge disabled drivers doesn't mean they should, said Steve Stanley. The disabled resident of Urbana learned of the university's plans to install meters in new spots during a recent visit to the meat science laboratory in Urbana.
"It's a money grab, that's all it is," Stanley said. He has a blue placard, which allows him to park in spaces designated for those with disabilities, but does not exempt him from feeding meters.
Officials with the cities of Champaign and Urbana said they do not have any plans to install meters where there are designated spaces, and no meters, for the disabled.
"We will not pursue doing that at all at this time," said Elizabeth Beaty, administrative services manager for Urbana.
There also was not much discussion on the matter in Champaign.
"There's a cost to putting in meters, the labor and purchase," said Kris Koester, spokesman with Champaign's public works department. "And I think we were also going for the more customer-friendly approach."
Over on the UI campus, meter installation at disabled spaces will primarily occur in lots and garages, according to Steve Breitwieser, spokesman for the UI's Division of Facilities & Services. Installation is expected to continue through the end of this month and into early May. It was supposed to occur earlier in the year but was delayed due to the winter weather, he said.
"The installation of meters will be a transition process. At the start, enforcement of it will be looked at on a case-by-case basis," Breitwieser said.
Beginning several months ago, UI staff started leaving information about the changes coming to the disabled-parking program on the windshields of vehicles in UI lots and garages. Some informational signs also are expected to be installed at the new meters, he said.
After allowing a grace period early in the year, the cities have begun enforcing the regulations regarding meter-exempt and nonexempt in some but not all areas.
Both Urbana and Champaign have decided to allow anyone with a disability placard (meter-exempt or not) to park for free — in the Hill Street parking deck in Champaign and the parking garage in downtown Urbana.
"The way we looked at it was, 'Yes, we know this is coming and we know it's not good for (drivers with disability placards), so we want to be more customer-service responsive and not take away all applicable use of you having a permit," Koester said.
It was just a good idea, Beaty added.