Parking illegally during rush hour in a bike lane may soon come with a penalty of $150—but does it matter if enforcement doesn't improve?
At the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee this morning, councillors voted in favour of a proposal that would see fines for parking illegally during rush hour—defined as 6:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. on weekdays—go up substantially, to $150. A $150 fine would also apply to parking in a bike lane at any time.
Though the decision is not final—it will need to be approved at a meeting of the full city council in a month—even if it is ratified the real question is whether fines of any amount make a difference, given our current enforcement standards. As noted by City staff in their background report on the issue [PDF]:
In general, the current situation is not due to the lack of stopping, standing, or parking regulations… [T]he root cause of the problem is the willful non-compliance with the existing rush hour stopping/standing/parking regulations by some motorists and delivery vehicles.
As we can all see every time we walk down the street, people are ignoring the rules we already have in place—illegal parking isn’t a problem because we don’t have the right bylaws yet. The problem, as the report goes on to say, is that penalties for parking illegally “are not severe enough or applied stringently.” The first part of that will be addressed with the increased fine, but it’s the second part that has the potential to seriously change behaviour. People ignore the rules because, most of the time, they get away with it. And while the risks go up with a steeper fine, it’s a safe bet that lots of the people flouting the current bylaw would flout a new one also.
Today’s approval, unfortunately, doesn’t tackle the enforcement question at all. As the report mentions, City staff also need to consider “the potential impacts on staffing resources and operational budgets of the Toronto Police Service that might be necessary to achieve measurable and sustainable improvements in compliance with current traffic regulations and a reduction in traffic congestion.”
In other words, stricter enforcement costs more. And nobody, at today’s meeting, suggested or moved any motions that would see an increase in the police resources dedicated to enforcement.
Higher fines for illegal parking that inhibits the flow of traffic and endangers cyclists: good. But whether such fines will do any measurable good on our streets is a separate question.