Saskatoon considers raising fees, lowering time limits for disabled parking permits downtown

An interim report from the City of Saskatoon on disabled parking has Robin East steaming mad.

Proposed changes has disabilities advocate fuming

The City of Saskatoon is looking at changing its policy on disabled parking permits. (Getty Images/EyeEm)

An interim report from the City of Saskatoon on disabled parking has Robin East steaming mad.

The city is considering raising its fees for its Parking for Disabled Persons Program from $20 to around $100. The program gives people the option to park in city-owned downtown parking spaces year-round, as long as they want, without plugging meters.

It's also looking at applying maximum parking times for drivers in the program, to curb abuse of the program.

East, a well-known advocate and former chair of the city's Accessibility Advisory Committee, is not pleased.

"I'm wondering why the city is putting the onus on persons with disabilities to fix their parking problems in the downtown core," he said. "Even if you remove this whole program altogether, downtown parking would still be an issue."

One of East's biggest concerns is on the program's price increase. While a potential $80 per year increase may not sound like much, he said many people with disabilities are on fixed budgets.

"I don't know how people with disabilities, who are usually in low-end jobs, if they have a job at all, are going to be able to afford a $100 placard," he said. "For someone who's living cheque by cheque, it's actually a huge amount."

City administration said the program has been in place for many years and is due for a review. Administrators said the changes are in the early stages, and they wanted the Accessibility Advisory Committee to review the document first.

The parking placard is administered by the Saskatchewan Abilities Council and the city gives a special hologram sticker to anyone in the downtown parking program.

Robin East, who is blind, isn't happy about the proposed changes. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

The program's numbers are growing. Five hundred people were added to the program last year, bringing total numbers to 4,000 people.

Richter said commissionaires have reported there is evidence the program is being abused, with some vehicles sitting in stalls for 36 hours before being moved. 

While East said that's a clear abuse of the rules, he questions how widespread rule breaking has become.

"I'd like to know how many fines have already been issued," he said. "That would tell us how much abuse there is."

The report is also considering limiting the time that people in the program can park on the street to two or three hours — the same limit as every other driver.

"If you're in a wheelchair, and you park at Lululemon, and you go to Midtown Plaza to do your shopping, because you're in a chair, you're going to be that much slower," East said. "By the time you get out, I don't know three hours is going to be enough."

The city said Regina charges an annual fee of $150 for its program, and would still be a good value if the price increased.

"[The program] essentially gives somebody unrestricted parking," said interim director of community standards Joanne Richter. "The fee likely doesn't cover the on-street parking fees, if anybody uses that pass for more than 10 hours in the year."

The report will be presented at the Accessibility Advisory Committee on Friday morning.