New handicapped parking meters installed downtown to stop theft and free up parking spots

Baltimore - Parking in downtown Baltimore can be quite the headache.

"You got to ride around, ride around until you find a spot," said Paul Miller Jr.

But Miller had no trouble snagging a space Thursday; one was reserved just for him.  Miller is handicapped and multiple times a week he drives downtown to pick up his son from work.

“This right here will be nice to have a spot," Miller said. 

The city launched a new program to fight theft and free up space to park.  It’s called Project Space and 200 blue parking meters were installed all over the downtown business district.  Before Thursday, drivers with a disability placard or plates could park anywhere for any amount of time.  Officials said that's the reason nearly 2,000 tags are lost or stolen each year.

"I had mine stolen,” said Miller. "I had mine up in the window and when I came back it was gone."

City leaders said some blocks would have cars displaying disability placards taking up every single spot.  They hope the new policy will open up more spaces by creating more turnover.

From now on everyone will feed the meter in the city's central business district, including drivers with disabilities.  It's a policy not every driver agrees with.

"I think that is ridiculous if they're going to charge handicapped people to park,” Stefanie Dawson said.  “I just don't believe in that."

 Betsy Mackey added, "people who have special needs like that should be able to park at will and shouldn't have additional difficulties."

Miller doesn’t agree, but he will trade green for more parking access.   

"If you gotta pay you gotta pay," he said.

This is just phase one of Project Space, the city plans to add handicapped meters in Fells Point, Harbor East, Federal Hill and other neighborhoods in the future.  Officials plan to convert 10 percent of the already existing meters into the reserved spaces.

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