Over the past year, Summit’s advocacy coordinator has been busy working with the Missoula City Council and the Missoula Parking Commission to increase access to accessible parking at businesses throughout Missoula as well as in the downtown Missoula area.
In December 2016, the Missoula City Council adopted a change to the city’s parking ordinance that makes it clear to business owners that when they reseal, restriped, or refurbish their parking lots that they need to bring their accessible parking spaces into compliance with current accessibility standards, which are the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Bringing parking lots into compliance with current accessibility standards has long been required. However, many businesses fail to do so and instead, routinely keep restriping over existing stripes that fail to have adequate spacing to be in compliance with accessibility standards for accessible parking. To ensure this ordinance is enforced, any business that is found to be in violation of the ordinance once they have altered their parking lot in any way may be subject to a fine if the violation is not corrected within a 60-day window upon notification of the violation.
In Missoula’s downtown area, the Missoula Parking Commission implemented a new parking meter system called multi-space parking meter kiosks in December, 2015. The way the parking kiosks work is when an individual parks in the downtown area, individuals proceed to the kiosk nearest to them, or on route to where they are going, the user will enter their license plate number, select how much time they are purchasing, and finally, either pay with cash or by credit/debit/or Downtown gift card. While this system seemed to work well for individuals without disabilities, many individuals with mobility limitations found the new kiosks quite difficult and even impossible to use. Individuals who have a difficult time walking long distances also found the kiosks inconvenient.
To tackle these barriers, Summit worked with the Missoula Parking Commission to re-implement a two-hour free parking time limit for individuals who utilize an accessible parking placard or license plate until such a time that the new system can be made accessible. As a part of this process, Summit worked closely with the Parking Commission to explore the possibility of implementing a pay by phone system.
After many thorough discussions, we are happy to announce that the new parking pay by phone system was implemented in downtown Missoula on February 24, 2017. While the new pay by phone system serves as a convenient mode of payment for anyone who parks downtown, it is especially convenient for individuals with disabilities and older adults who find using the parking kiosks difficult or impossible. The new pay by phone application is called PassportParking and can be downloaded for free from the Apple Store and Google Play. The app is also available in a desktop version which can be accessed at: https://ppprk.com/park/, for users who do not have access to an Android or IPhone but do have access to the internet via other means.
If the new pay by phone system has shown to address the accessibility barriers to drivers with disabilities, the Missoula Parking Commission Board of Directors may vote once again to eliminate the two-hour free parking limit for individuals who have an accessibility parking placard or license plate. If the Missoula Parking Commission Board of Directors chooses to do so, it would mean that individuals who use an accessible parking placard or license plate would pay the same amount in parking fees as anyone who does not use such a placard or license plate. Summit Independent Living would not oppose this move by the Missoula Parking Commission as long as parking and the method in which drivers pay for such parking is fully accessible to and usable by drivers with disabilities.
Summit is also working closely with Missoula Development Services and the Missoula Parking Commission to begin to address the significant shortage of accessible parking spaces in the downtown area. The Missoula Parking Commission has recently brought on an intern to work on putting together a GIS map of the downtown area that would take inventory of existing parking, including an inventory of accessible parking spaces. The data within this GIS map would also include information on existing accessible parking deficiencies so that it can be used to bring parking in the downtown area into compliance with current accessibility standards. The information will also help city planners determine how many additional accessible parking spaces are required in the downtown area and where those parking spaces should be located.