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Real City Matters

Join us Tuesday night for a discussion about municipal ethics in Toronto

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One Thing at Which Toronto Is Okay: Handing Out Parking Tickets

Despite many complaints, Toronto's ombudsman finds our parking ticket system is more or less all right.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/39192521@N05/4596197303/"}Steve 16:9 {/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

The ombudsman’s job is to investigate residents’ complaints about how the municipal government does its job. One frequent subject of complaint: parking tickets. People don’t like getting parking tickets, naturally, and are often aggrieved when they receive one, but many apparently also feel that the process by which parking tickets are given out and processed is unfair. So, the ombudsman looked into Toronto’s system.

It could be improved, she has found—and she’s made some recommendations as to how—but overall, that system is actually working reasonably well.

“My office has received many complaints from residents about the fairness and transparency of the parking enforcement system,” her report on parking tickets begins—specifically, complaints about how one can dispute a ticket. (You can read the full report here: [PDF].) The upshot, she goes on, is that many feel Toronto’s “parking infraction dispute process appears to be deliberately designed to maximize revenue, by making it quick and convenient to pay parking fines, but inconvenient, time-consuming and frustrating to dispute the infraction notice.”

After surveying the information available on parking tickets themselves—via the City’s hotline, on its website, and in its First Appearance Facilities (where you go to deliver your notice that you intend to dispute a ticket), as well as court proceedings, practices in other jurisdictions, and the timelines involved—the ombudsman has concluded that “Persons will inevitably be unhappy when they receive parking tickets. This does not indicate that there is a problem with the system.”

She does, however, think there are ways it could be improved. In particular, the City’s website and parking notices should more clearly explain how a parking ticket can be cancelled. Current notices, she writes, don’t do this “in as balanced or complete a way” as they should, and have a layout that “emphasizes the payment option and downplays the trial option.” Better support also needs to be provided to people who have questions about how to navigate the system, and what their options are—the City should provide clearer information on these subjects, and should make it easier to get questions answered without having to appear anywhere in person.

Toronto’s top bureaucrat has reviewed these recommendations and agrees with them, and city council will vote on them next week.

So there you go, Toronto: you won’t get fewer parking tickets, but the tickets you do get might explain what’s going on a bit more clearly.

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