BOSTON (CBS) – After a WBZ I-Team investigation exposed rampant abuse of handicap placards, a state lawmaker said it is time to change the benefit that allows people to park for free at metered spots all day.
Rep. Bruce Ayers of Quincy filed legislation that calls for investigating the issue and implementing potential time limits at meters.
“What the I-Team exposed is rampant fraud and abuse of people misusing the placards in needed spots,” Ayers said. “As legislators, we have an obligation to update the law and crack down on abuse and fraud.”
The development comes after the I-Team had no trouble finding workers using someone else’s placard to score free parking during their entire shifts in Boston’s Seaport District.
Following that report, a Boston city leader said it was time to end the parking benefit. City Councilor Michael Flaherty pointed to the ease of paying for metered parking through mobile devices.
He also said a change would help cities and towns recoup lost revenue and would free up valuable spaces for those who truly need them.
Ayers is aware a drastic change like that could be unpopular in the disability community and views the time limit proposal as more of a compromise. Before lawmakers weigh in, he is hoping to get a lot of feedback from people who rely on the placards.
The legislation would provide flexibility to cities and towns to implement their own time limits.
“What is good for the City of Boston might not be good for the Town of Scituate,” Ayers said. “We want to be fair and make sure the disability community is protected.”
The bill would form a special commission, comprised of state lawmakers, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Elder Affairs, and the Office on Disability. The commission would craft a detailed report with recommendations.
After getting a tip, the I-Team recently observed the metered parking situation in front of Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.
It did not take long to see the same vehicles parked all day near the health care facility with placards hanging in the mirror.
The I-Team saw a nurse use a fraudulent placard to park her GMC several days in front of the hospital and then leave at the end of her shift without ever feeding the meter.
When the I-Team approached her, the woman denied the car belonged to her, even though she had already fired up the engine with the automatic starter.
Instead, she continued walking down the street, leaving the car idling at the metered space. She called a friend to pick her up, before eventually returning to the GMC with the I-Team watching down the block.
The nurse got into the car, removed the placard from the mirror, and then drove away.
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.