I-Team Investigation: Commuters with handicapped parking tags abuse the system

Do the District's handicapped parking regulations invite fraud?

According to one city agency they do. It says commuters are abusing the handicapped parking regulations every day, occupying prime downtown parking spaces for free, all day long.

In the District, anyone with a valid handicapped placard or tag can park at any meter--without paying--for twice the allotted time.

So on most downtown streets like on L'Enfant Plaza, that means four hours of free parking.

But what we found is that many of the spaces are occupied all day long by commuters looking for free parking while at work.

On any given day, cars displaying handicapped placards take up the majority of the parking spaces by the Department of Energy.

Over the course of several days, ABC7 documented dozens and dozens of cars there and on other downtown streets illegally parking all day.

But not getting any tickets because they all display a handicapped sign.

Businesses have been complaining about the problem for years.

"If people are parking all day, then that means somebody else can't get in there and do business," says Karyn LeBlanc, Downtown DC BID spokesperson.

Two recent studies found an alarmingly high number of metered parking spaced illegally occupied all day.

In the 1220 block of K Street NW, 41 percent of the cars were illegally parked; the 900 block of Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 48 percent; the 1900 Block F St. NW, 67 percent; and the 900 block 15th St. NW, 70 percent.

And the spot with the most parking scofflaws: the 300 block L'Enfant Plaza where 91 percent of the cars were abusing the system.

When ABC7 tried to talk with a few of these all day parkers, most declined.

One man acknowledged he risks getting a ticket to avoid the expense of the nearby $20 per day parking lots.

Some commuters try to get around the four-hour limit by moving their cars during the day.

But even that is illegal.
In the District, the time limit is for the time you spend in an entire zone, not just a single parking space.

ABC7 didn't question whether or not the commuters using the handicapped placards are legitimately handicapped. We assume they are, but it doesn't matter, the law only allows handicapped drivers to park in one zone for four hours, not all day.

DDOT tells us it's received complaints from several federal agencies about the lack of available parking for visitors because of this very problem.

Tonight at 11 p.m. see what happens when we confront a man who says he never abuses his handicapped permit.