Friday, May 6, 2011

Houston doubles fine for illegally parking in accessible spot

From FOX-TV:

HOUSTON - It seems oh, so tempting. Parking spots meant for the disabled are often the closest and the most convenient.

That's why some able-bodied drivers take advantage of those spots. Starting May 4, if you are given a ticket, it will cost you more: more than double.

We spent part of the day with parking enforcement officer Roland de la Cerda. He handed out his first ticket to a driver parked in the disabled zone outside of the Mickey Leland Building in downtown Houston.

That driver wouldn't talk to us and drove off with the ticket still on her windshield. She likely had no idea that instead of $205, she would be paying $500. For some, that's easily a month’s worth of groceries.

Sonia Morrison had already seen a lot of drivers abuse that particular disabled zone. She was parked a couple of spaces ahead of that driver. Unlike the ticketed driver, she has a valid blue tag.

"People just park in the parking lot and then you see them walking and they're healthy and strong," Morrison said.

"The abuse is pretty rampant. We write anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 of these parking citations on a quarterly basis here at the city of Houston," described Liliana Rambo with the city of Houston's Parking Enforcement Department.

Those citations bring in more than a million dollars of revenue to the city right now.

“The shopping malls are the area where we see the most abuse because again, someone thinks that they're not harming anyone and they're just going to be going in and out quickly and because they're not harming a person per say,” Rambo said. “It's not perceived as a crime but indeed it is because there is someone that truly needs that parking space."

In his years with parking enforcement, de la Cerda has seen drivers go to great lengths to keep their blue tags. The year ‘04 can be changed to ‘09 buying that driver another 5 years of disabled access parking.

While more citations means more money for the city coffers, the hope is the increased fine will be a deterrent for people to park where they should. But sometimes it takes a hit to the pocketbook before people pay attention.