Commission proposes adding meters to downtown handicapped parking

New meter technology allows them to comply with ADA standards.

A proposal to add meters to handicapped parking spots in downtown Columbia will reach the City Council on Sep. 2. If passed, the proposal will end the practice of offering unmetered parking to drivers who display valid handicap tags.

The project, proposed by the City Council’s Disabilities Commission, has been in the works since 2013.

If passed, the city will add seven more handicapped parking spaces to the already existing 91. The new spots will be compliant with regulations issued under the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), said Adam Kruse, ADA Coordinator for the City of Columbia.

“The disabilities commission has recognized a void of disabled parking spaces downtown,” Kruse said. “Once you get in front of City Hall, there are two spaces (and) no other designated handicapped spaces on Broadway.”

Five spots will be added along Broadway with one more on both Walnut Street and Ash Street. The locations of the spots, chosen by the Disabilities Committee, are more convenient for disabled drivers, said Columbia Public Works spokesman Steven Sapp.

Sean Spence, commissioner of the Disabilities Commission, said the commission is “very excited about additional spaces,” calling it “a priority of the commission for many years”.

The meters required manual means that did not comply with ADA regulations when they were installed in 1994. New technology allows the driver to use a coin or card, which is compliant with ADA regulations.

The City Council allocated $100,000 in 2013 in budget surplus to improving accessibility downtown.

“The estimated cost to add the accessible ramps on Broadway is $40,000, which will be funded from a council-approved budget 2013,” Sapp said. “Another $40,000 will be used to install approximately 30 parking meters at handicapped spots.”

Public works improvements will benefit Columbia’s disabled drivers, Spence said.

“The primary discussion was about whether it was appropriate to have meters or not,” Spence said. “The disabilities community is not looking for any special favors, we’re not looking to get out of paying for our parking in the same way that everybody else does, we just want to make sure those meters are accessible.”

The proposal may also benefit the community by discouraging the misuse of handicapped parking spots.

“If the price of parking is equal, there is less incentive to borrow handicapped parking tags,” Kruse said. “That was one of the benefits, but the main priority was to get the spaces.”

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