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Robins to eliminate assigned handicap parking

U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp.

U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp.

Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Robins is discontinuing its implementation of assigned handicap parking spaces and reviewing the need for other designated parking spaces as many reserved spaces often sit empty on the base.

Beginning April 5, the base's 700 handicap parking spaces will be open to all - that is all who have a handicap sticker or handicap placard issued by the county tax commissioner's office.

Terry Landreth, 778th Civil Engineer Squadron's Design Branch chief, said in the past, individuals with special parking needs were assigned a parking space of their own. But a new policy is changing that.

"The basic philosophy for the new handicap parking is that all handicap parking will not be assigned to individual people," he said. "We will be providing sufficient handicap parking for those who need it, but it won't be assigned to a particular person."

Under the former handicap parking procedures, assigned spaces were marked by an individual's organization symbol followed by a two-letter designation, such as WR-ALC/ PK-XX. Now, handicap spaces will merely display the universal handicap symbol.

Mr. Landreth said the changeover will take months to complete.

"It will take us a couple of months to go through and paint all the parking," he said. "It's not something that can be done overnight."

The change is coming as Robins is trying to open up more parking for general use, Mr. Landreth said.

"A lot of it had to do with merely trying to limit the number of assigned parking spaces so we don't have a proliferation of everybody getting their own spot," he said. "Also by making it open, during the course of the day, people end up having to change work stations. A lot of times people get frustrated trying to find parking spots only to find designated parking spots that are not being used; but they can't use them because they're assigned to someone else. The idea is just to try to make parking more available to more people."

First Lt. Shaun Sumpter, Saber Project manager in the 78th CES, said people on the base have had concerns about the parking issue for quite some time.

"I think the big drive was trying to open up more available parking to the general public," he said. "We get a lot of Action Line complaints regarding the number of open handicap parking spaces that seem to be unutilized throughout the base. When the new parking operating instruction came up and I was tasked with (finding) a better way to do things, I did some research and (found that) as long as enough open parking spaces were in front of the buildings, you could accommodate not only the employees working there, but also the transient visitors that utilize multiple buildings throughout the base."

Handicap parking spots aren't the only designated spaces being reviewed.

As civil engineer officials make efforts to address on going parking challenges on the base, they're also closely examining reserved parking spaces owned by many organizations.

"We have tried to clarify the requirements of who is permitted reserved parking spaces and we hope that might reduce the number of designated parking spaces and not just handicap, but in general all across the board which would free up parking spaces for everyone else," Mr. Landreth said.

As it stands now, squadron commanders and deputy commanders, group commanders and group deputy commanders, and senior-level officers and civilian employees are permitted to have reserved parking spaces, Mr. Landreth said.

Changes to designated parking on base are Robins way of accommodating its new wing structure and new operating instruction, Mr. Landreth said.

Tiffany Evans, a civil engineer and base traffic engineer in the 778th Civil Engineer Squadron's Design Branch, said while the changes to designated spaces are coming, the number of spaces for each building hasn't been determined yet.

Ms. Evans said in addition to wing parking monitors, the base will soon assign wing parking wardens to help address parking needs within their wing's structure. The same parking warden concept is being proposed for associate units on the base as well, although Ms. Evans said the concept is still in the planning phase.

Lieutenant Sumpter said the new approach to designated parking spaces hasn't been met with open arms.

"I know there was a lot of distress when this issue was first brought up," he said. "I think people are afraid they're somehow getting ousted if they really need a handicap parking spot. I think it's important that people understand that that's not the intent of the change to the document. The intent is to better facilitate parking to the entire base and to allow handicap people who use multiple buildings to have more access."

Ms. Evans said 778th CES will be getting the word out about the change through the base newspaper, the base marquee, the commander's access channel and all government computer login screens at Robins. People with special handicap parking needs may request a designated handicap parking space. Requests will be decided on a case-by-case basis.