On Key Highway in Federal Hill, Toni Yager, 67, right, is the first person to use the new parking meter as Charles Brown, 58, left, and Dwight Daughton, Sr., 60, watch.
On Key Highway in Federal Hill, Toni Yager, 67, right, is the first person to use the new parking meter as Charles Brown, 58, left, and Dwight Daughton, Sr., 60, watch. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

The Parking Authority of Baltimore City announced plans Wednesday to require more disabled drivers to pay for parking in Harbor East and Fells Point in September.

By mid-to-late September, the ProjectSPACE initiative will begin to reserve about 165 total on-street parking spaces cars with handicap placards. The program, led by the Parking Authority of Baltimore City and the Mayor's Office on Disabilities, began in 2014 and reported success in reducing theft of handicap placards.

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"The average number of disability placards stolen per month in Baltimore City is down to three from an alarming 23 per month before ProjectSPACE Phase 1 launched," said Peter Little, the Parking Authority's executive director, in a news release.

This next step will continue to remove the financial motivation to steal a handicap placard, Little said. Before the program began, cars with a sign had access to free and unlimited city parking. The plan will enforce metered parking costs for handicapped drivers as well, consistent with normal parking costs in the area.

The reserved spots in Harbor East and Fells Point will also be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. About 70 spaces will have single-space meters and about 95 will use the multi-space EZ Park meter system.

The Parking Authority will retrofit the meters to meet ADA standards, which will improve parking for handicapped drivers in ProjectSPACE areas.

In 2014, the initiative added 200 accessible meters in the central business district. Officials anticipate the plan will continue to expand in phases into Federal Hill and Mount Vernon in the future.

"One phase at a time, we're increasing accessibility for people with disabilities in Baltimore," Little said.

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