No respite for handicapped at the airport

phild2008@sbcglobal.netApril 19, 2012 

Somehow, it made the world seem less friendly. I’m talking about the rule I read last week on the website of the San Luis Obispo County Airport. It said: “Handicapped patrons are not exempt from paying parking fees.”

That decree was news to me, so I quoted it in the column I wrote last week about the airport’s new parking-fee kiosks. I had thought people with disabled license plates or placards didn’t have to feed parking meters.

Some people who read the column e-mailed and phoned me. They said the official instructions that came with their disabled placards say they may park in “metered zones without paying.”

So, I phoned the airport and spoke to Assistant General Manager Craig Piper. He said the state changed that rule by adding one word: “Street.” The rule now says people with disabled placards or plates may park in “street metered zones without paying.”

The Department of Motor Vehicles website confirms that and so does my wife, Mamie’s, latest disabled placard instructions. And we all know airport parking lots aren’t streets.

Reserved parking spaces for disabled people are essential to their ability to cope with life. Free parking was more of a polite, friendly gesture. It’s sad that we can no longer afford it.

You’ll find the county airport’s disabled parking spaces on the two lots nearest the terminal. They cost $1 per hour, with a $12 daily maximum.

Disabled placard holders may also park long-term there for $8 per day, if they select the “Daily Handicap Parking” rate when paying a kiosk.

The kiosks, scattered throughout the parking lots, take credit cards and PIN-less debit cards as well as paper money, but no coins.

Last Saturday, however, one kiosk wouldn’t eat the second dollar I tried to feed it. I wanted two hours parking. It also didn’t return my first dollar or give me a receipt. Assistant General Manager Piper said a few new kiosks still have hiccups.

Displaying the receipt on my car’s dashboard would have proved I’d paid. Fortunately, I wasn’t cited.

A woman told me her husband fed $1 to the same meter and got a receipt. However, she felt the kiosk system is too complicated and that taking the receipt to your car is inconvenient.

Piper said the airport management is considering a handheld electronic meter to eliminate the need for taking the receipt back to your car. An employee would scan the cars’ license plates with the meter to tell if their parking fees were paid.

That might make the world seem a little friendlier.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.

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