Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Midway through next month, Federal Hill will get two dozen more on-street handicap-reserved spots, and all metered spaces reserved for drivers with disabilities in the neighborhood will require payment.

The City of Baltimore is expanding its Project Space initiative to Federal Hill on April 17. The city launched the initiative in 2014, employing a bit of psychology to try to reduce theft and misuse of disability placards by creating paid reserved parking spots for drivers with disabilities. The theory is that by adding paid meters to handicap spots, thieves or those who know someone with a handicap tag will stop taking them and hanging them in their cars to snag premium spots on the street.

The tradeoff: While drivers with disabilities have to start paying to park, the city says they’re more likely to find spaces designated just for them, and are also less prone to car burglaries. So far, it’s working, city officials say.

“Project SPACE gets at the root of two problems at once,” said Parking Authority Executive Director Peter Little in a release. “It removes the incentive to steal disability placards, which were being stolen at an average of 23 per month before Project SPACE, and it makes more parking spaces available, which helps popular areas like Federal Hill.”

The Parking Authority of Baltimore and the Mayor’s Office on Disabilities reserved 200 such spaces in the Central Business District downtown in 2014 and about 70 more in Fells Point and Harbor East last fall. They’ll designate another 24 on-street spaces in Federal Hill on April 17. All on-street handicap spaces in the South Baltimore neighborhood will also require payment starting that day.

As it did in phases I and II in other neighborhoods, the Parking Authority will lower meters in Federal Hill to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. City workers will lower 57 coin or card-ready meters to make them ADA-compliant in the coming weeks, the Parking Authority said in a release.

The agency also said all handicap meter time limits in Federal Hill will increase to four hours to better accommodate the time needs of drivers with disabilities.

If you live in Federal Hill or visit often, you’re likely familiar with the battle royale that can ensue for open parking spots throughout the day. This effort attempts to reduce that tension, at least for handicap spaces. Councilman Eric Costello said in the release from the Parking Authority that the change “supports our community’s need for more available parking.”

The Parking Authority isn’t stopping at Federal Hill. The next phase will target Mount Vernon, and the following one will broaden the effort to the rest of the city.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...