As of the new year, it will be a lot harder to park for free on city streets with a disabled parking card. And the new rules could end up saving the city millions.
A state law taking effect Jan. 1 says only motorists whose impairments prevent them from being able to pay a meter can park for free in those spots. Before, anyone with a disability parking placard could do so.
The law limits the number of drivers with access to the new yellow and gray placards to those who use wheelchairs, are unable to walk 20 feet or have or suffer loss of motor control in both hands.
Chicago drivers will get a 15-day grace period before $65 fines kick in on Jan. 16.
The new law is a response, in part, to a growing trend of fraud and abuse by drivers with access to a handicapped cards. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 299,530 blue disabled parking placards in Illinois last year, while only 30,510 drivers have qualified under the new standards.
According to previous state law, cars with disabled placards were allowed to park at a meter for free for an unlimited period of time. The private company that leases the meters as part of a 75-year deal, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, charged the city for revenue lost to disabled parking according to a formula.
As part of the revised deal struck earlier this year, the city had to pay $54.9 million for the use of disabled placards over the past two years.
Since taking office, the Emanuel administration has made other efforts to reduce disabled placard fraud, including coordinating stings to pursue motorists who are abusing the system.
In November, the Illinois Secretary of State Police department canvassed Illinois shopping locations looking for folks who were misusing a handicapped parking placard.