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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=""}Steve 16:9 {/a} from the {a href=""}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.


  • Matt

    The problem is not the tickets, it’s the signs on the street. There’s a city-wide 3-hour parking limit, unless there are signs on the street giving other rules. This is not on a sign anywhere, you’re just expected to know. I found a street with absolutely no parking regulation signs and thought, “Sweet! Free parking.”, then came back after work to find a ticket. That was extremely annoying. Searched the internet later for the wording found on the ticket and learned about the 3-hour limit. A $30 fine should not be how I had to find out about this.

    • driver

      The 3-hour limit applies all over Ontario. It’s in the Driver’s Handbook.

    • driver

      The 3-hour limit applies all over Ontario. It’s in the Driver’s Handbook.

    • Sean Marshall

      There’s signs posted, like in most urbanized municipalities, upon crossing the civic boundary (ie Steeles Avenue or Etobicoke Creek), or after a freeway off-ramp about the 3-hour rule and the speed limits unposted speed limits (where in some rural and semi-rural municipalities like Caledon, it’s 80 unless otherwise posted).

      • Anonymous

        That’s what they say???? There’s so much small writing that I’ve never been able to get through it all in the brief moment when I can read it when driving past.

  • David

    It is also that there are a lot of default rules which don’t require signage. I received two tickets within a week for “parking within 9 metres of an intersection (or 15 if the intersection has traffic lights)”. Who knew? I live downtown where many/most residents have permit parking and several tickets could be issued every day at every corner for this infraction. I decided to dispute the tickets. It took about 18 months before I got a court date.

    • Val Dodge

      Who knew?

      Well, you should have, after the first ticket.

    • driver

      Again, this one’s in the Driver’s Handbook, too. Don’t feel like learning the rules? Keep paying those tickets, then.

      • Guest

        Haha I don’t get why there are people like this that get upset over getting tickets for infractions that are clearly spelled out in the Driver’s Handbook.

      • Anonymous

        They should test you on it when you get a licence. I learnt all this, but never got asked.

    • driver

      Again, this one’s in the Driver’s Handbook, too. Don’t feel like learning the rules? Keep paying those tickets, then.

  • picard102

    It seems a bit off that I can pay my tickets online, but I can’t dispute them via the same mechanism.

  • Anonymous

    What grieves me is the zeal with which tickets are issued for revenue infractions (expired parking meters), while safety is consistently neglected. You’re unlikely to get ticketed for stopping/parking in a No Stopping zone (esp. bike lane), but you are *guaranteed* a ticket if your time expires in a paid parking zone. What’s the priority here?

    • Anonymous

      Low-hanging fruit.

  • ashleigh

    City of Toronto’s parking ticketing policy enrages me. It is a corrupt policy of revenue generation only; no service to citizens, traffic, pedestrians, cyclists, etc, no service to roads’ maintenance as the revenue (an annual budget line item of paid tickets) goes to general revenue. Cash and cash only. Ask a tourist family from Michigan or New York their experience: nice clean city, polite people, but why did I get 3 parking tickets.

    After combating 21 parking tickets over 11 years I can say, colloquially only, the city of Toronto does not prosecute contested evidence parking tickets. Not one of the 21 tickets has appeared on my MTO record nor court date letter arrived in the mail.

    You must go to one of the reporting centers, fill out an annoying form and you MUST check the box choosing to contest the evidence. I encourage, order, demand, all Torontonians and others to do this and tell the city of Toronto parking enforcement authority to EFF OFF.

  • James

    It’s random. I park wherever is convenient, sometimes half on the sidewalk because the extra effort or money for “legit” parking does not guarantee that I won’t get a ticket. All things being equal, the cost nets out.

    If you want to screw them, call their bluff. Those parasites have no moral authority.