Commission Proposes Tougher Enforcement of Parking

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Disabilities Commission met Thursday to hear a proposal that would help police toughen up on accessible parking enforcement.

Sharon Paulsell is a Columbia resident and advocates for people with disabilities. Paulsell presented a cell phone application called Parking Mobility to the commission.

The application allows people to report any unauthorized vehicle parking in an accessible spot. Parking Mobility requires a person to take three pictures of the violator's car, upload them to the application and the company will then send the photos to local law enforcement.

Much like the city's contract with the red light camera contractor Gatso, Columbia would have to pay Parking Mobility a portion of the revenue it makes from handicap parking tickets. 

Several other states such as Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Florida currently use Parking Mobility. Paulsell said those states have seen an increase in education and revenue since using the application.

"The violations seem to have ceased in almost all of the locations," Paulsell said. "The first couple of years it was a huge income generator for their city, and then the education process. Once people realize what the violation means, not only to their pocket, but also the person that they're violating, you know, who has the ownership to be in that spot."

Chuck Graham is chair of the Columbia Disabilities Commission and uses a wheelchair. He said  parking enforcement on spots for the disabled has been a problem in Columbia for years.

"Right now there's really very little, if any enforcement of the existing disabled parking laws," Graham said. "The police don't have a lot of time to be able to do that and so it's been an ongoing problem for years and years."

The commission discussed finding a group of volunteers to consistently take pictures of parking violations using the parking mobility application.

Graham said he is irritated with the abuse of accessible parking in Columbia.

"It's the number one complaint that I hear, not just from people with disabilities, but also average citizens throughout the community get very enraged when they see the abuse of disabled parking," Graham said. "That parking is there because people need it."

The commission plans to check city ordinances and contact the Parking Mobility company to discuss further options.