It all starts innocent enough.
“Come, hang out! Have a good time.”
You go. You eat. You drink. Have a fun night out.
Next thing you know, you’ve been violated – by the city of Toronto.
The city slipped a roofie in my meter.
A classic date-rape drug.
I should have seen the signs. But, I played the part of the naïve schoolgirl:
I’m a big girl. I’ve paid for parking before. I know how it goes. You only need to pay up until 9pm. After that it’s free!
Yup, a freebie – for the city.
As it turns out, most parking spots in Toronto are free after 9pm. But some, in areas such as the entertainment district for example, require you to pay up until midnight.
So while you’re at the club, the theatre, or doing things that typically take you past 9 o’clock at night, the city is hoping you didn’t notice this slight variant in parking policy. In fact, it is banking on it.
According to City of Toronto Revenue Services, in 2006, Toronto issued 2,852,100 parking tickets. This increased each following year: 2,888,234, in 2007 and 2,902,929 in 2008.
By the end of 2010, it is estimated that 3 million parking tickets will be issued. This in a city of about 6 million people, where not everyone has a car or driver’s license.
And here’s an interesting tidbit of trivia to use at a party – or heck, when talking to your city councillor…
The top-10 locations in the city, where you can find a parking ticket on your windshield are almost all by hospitals and universities.
King Street West (among others) received an honourable mention as one of the ticketing hotspots in Toronto, which is where I got crowned last night.
Each year, busy meter maids and butlers help the city collect about $80 million in revenue from these tags.
And what perhaps does this, let’s be honest, “tax” on drivers go towards?
Removing lanes on University Avenue, a busy city artery, to create two cycling lanes. (While a useless boulevard already occupies another two lanes worth of traffic, and an oversized sidewalk lies cluttered with nature’s finest-issue concrete plant holders.)
Or, paying a severance of $167,769.94 to a mayor because he has chosen not to run for re-election.
Or, paying a severance to each retiring city councillor – whether he or she quits or gets ousted: One month's salary ($8301.63), multiplied by the number of years of service.
Or maybe it just goes to the meter maids’ salary. After all, when those meter maids clean up, and hit or exceed quota so vehemently, they deserve it.
Of course, the city will never say that the tens of millions of dollars collected each year are fiscally relevant or even affect its operating budget. These fines are simply put in place to help deter parking violations and ensure a smooth flow of traffic.
Yes, as smooth as traffic on a main artery reduced by two lanes.
Still, Toronto cries poverty over parking tickets.
A recent Toronto Star article revealed the city cancelled about 860,000 parking tags in 2007 and 2008. For a city that is not looking for any “gains” from tickets, it seems really concerned with this resulted “loss” of $35 million.
There are ways to fight your ticket in Toronto, and when fought, 25 per cent of the time payment is evaded. Though, only a few per cent of people challenge the city.
Not enough people are aware of their rights.
But, even for those who are aware of their rights, it can be a wrong decision to fight the ticket.
How often do we avoid exercising our rights (or shopping skills) to avoid the parking issues we face?
You can just imagine all the poor shlubs who took a day off work to fight the ticket and fight the line at court. Hope they took the (overpriced) subway.
Of the cancelled tickets, councillor Doug Holyday who chairs the audit committee says, "It's too much and it's not fair. …It means some people who should be paying for their mistakes are not being held accountable."
The councillor is correct.
It is too much.
It is not fair.
People who should be paying for their mistakes are not being held accountable; rather, they are holding our accounts receivable.
There’s an upcoming civic election. Let’s use the meters to measure our politicians.
My ticket came with a $30 price tag, but the lesson that has now come from it is priceless.
So remember, just like you should never take an open drink from someone you don’t know, you should never take a Toronto meter for granted.
You may get violated.