There are evildoers amongst us, friends: not all of the approximately 55,000 San Franciscans who hold permanent or temporary handicapped/disabled (we never could figure out PC) parking permits are ACTUALLY DISABLED.
At a hearing today called by District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, the MTA testified it has five teams of specially-trained parking control officers (read: those “Tough Jobs, Good People” people you love to hate who prowl the streets in the three-wheeled parking ticket machines) who conduct stings on potentially able-bodied holders of the preferred parking passes.
Recent stings nabbed the following amounts of misused placards in the following places: 17 in Chinatown, 12 near San Francisco State, 21 on the Irving Street commercial strip, 15 on the Clement Street strip, six near SF General Hospital and seven near the Kaiser Permanente complex at Geary/Divisadero streets.
In all, MTA/DPT staff nabbed 636 altered, misused or counterfeit permits in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 258 bad permits confiscated in the same time period in 2007.
(As far as what these stings entail: we have plenty of ideas, including images of counterfeit parking placard shops dancing in our heads, but are waiting for more info from MTA spokesman Judson True. In the meantime, we can report that the parking control officers use another tried and true method in checking placards’ authenticity: walking up and down rows of parked cards and running every permit’s number in their system. If a permit’s good or bad, the computer knows. The computer knows all.)
Currently, the top fine for handicapped permit malefactors is $100 for misuse of the placard, plus another $300 for a handicapped zone violation. Under legislation working its way through Sacramento, however, the maximum penalty for an able-body stealing parking away from the infirm is $1000.
We were a bit bemused to hear the statistics: there are about 390,000 registered CARS in San Francisco. Counting trucks and motorcycles/scooters, there are about 460,000 registered vehicles in the city. Recent estimations say that 20 percent of Americans have some disability. But, of course, not every disabled person is able to drive, or has a vehicle properly equipped — Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, for example, has had to use a wheelchair since she was 13, but drives a Jeep using hand controls for the gas and brake — which means… shit, we don’t know. People will alter, falsify or otherwise get around the system if they can, which is why we have City Hall hearings. God bless us all.
We’re waiting to hear more from the MTAre: the stings, and from the DMV about the difference between the parking placards — which a driver hangs from their rearview mirror — versus handicapped license plates, which are hung on garage walls or affixed to the back of a vehicle. Are those statistics kept differently? We can’t say, which is why the Goddess created media relations staff. We’ll post when we hear back.