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News Release: City Council to consider reforms to disabled parking rules on Dec. 19th

Dec. 19th update: City Council unanimously approved the new disabled parking policy; the new program will be developed in early 2014 and take effect July 1, 2014.



Chris Warner
Commissioner Steve Novick

(December 18, 2013) –  Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick will introduce a resolution to City Council on December 19 designed to significantly change Portland’s current parking regulations for people with disabilities within the metered district.

The current policy allows free on-street parking for anyone displaying a disabled parking placard. This encourages the use of on-street parking as all-day commuter parking, instead of its intended use as short term parking for shoppers and others taking short trips downtown.   It also costs the City an estimated $2.4 million a year in foregone parking revenue at a time when there is a large street maintenance backlog and unmet needs for sidewalks and safety features throughout the City. Finally, there is reason to believe that the lure of free parking has created some abuse of the disabled parking policy – e.g., commuters “borrowing” the placards of relatives.

The proposal would end free, unlimited parking for holders of disabled placards, and instead offer several payment options. Those options would give placard holders a ‘grace period’ at short-term spaces, allowing them to park for up to 3 hours at any space.  In addition, the new program would establish at least 30 designated parking spaces for wheelchair users and 50 designated spaces for other holders of disabled placards in order to increase accessibility to high-demand destinations. Finally, commuters with disabilities who do not have workplace garages and cannot use TriMet could buy a permit to park on the street, at the same price as local garage permits. 

The new disabled parking program would not affect free parking for people with wheelchair placards, which is mandated by state law. 

“I believe that this action will free up parking spaces that have been occupied by all-day users, which means that shoppers will have an easier time finding open spaces,” Commissioner Novick said. “This benefits businesses and all downtown visitors. Meanwhile, we’re giving people with disabilities what they really need – some extra time, designated spaces, and, for those who work downtown and really need an on-street space, a chance to buy one. I don’t think most people with disabilities think they’re entitled to free parking, any more than free gas or free cars; they just want some reasonable accommodations.”

A September survey of the metered district by the Portland Bureau of Transportation found that 1,033 vehicles parked on city streets displayed disabled placards, or about one in nine of all available spaces. That number reflects a steady increase over the years from 586 placards in 2007.

The proposed new program was formed in consultation with the City ofPortland’s Disabled Parking Task Force, which includes representatives from the business community, as well as the Portland Commission on Disabilities and other stakeholders.

The new rules cover currently metered areas – the Central City,LloydDistrict, Central Eastside, and the area aroundOregonHealth & ScienceUniversity. Enforcement of the program would begin on July 1, 2014. 

Among the specifics:

  • For visitors to downtown or those that wish to park for three hours or less: People with a state-approved disabled parking permit can park up to three hours at meters marked for one to three hours, which covers most of the downtown core.  A three hour window allows visitors with disabled placards additional time to complete their trip.
  • For those who have difficulty operating or accessing the parking meters and/or need to park over three hours: The City also will offer additional technologies for individuals who have difficulty operating or accessing parking meters. This technology will allow users to park beyond the posted time limit at the posted hourly parking rate.
  • For downtown residents: People with disabled parking placards living downtown may obtain on-street permits at a price comparable to nearby garage pricing.  Residents in subsidized housing downtown will be allowed to park with a free permit through June 30, 2015. Both types of residential permits will only be valid within three blocks of the permit holder’s residence.
  • For downtown employees: Employees that work within the metered district with disabled parking placards and cannot reasonably be expected to use TriMet or garages may obtain on-street permits at a price comparable to nearby garages. The employee permit would only be valid within three blocks of the permit holder’s work site.  

The proposed changes also direct the Portland Bureau of Transportation to monitor and evaluate the program in concert with the Commissioner’s office, Disabled Parking Task Force and the Portland Commission on Disability.