How to Park for Free in Toronto

Parking in Toronto is even worse than driving in Toronto’s current state of mass construction. Streets can have half a dozen or more parking signs:

Photo from http://www.danpink.com/

There are restrictions by time of year, day of week, time of day, and on top of that a permit system where ‘1H’ is a type of permit rather than ‘1 Hour.’

Photo from http://www.bitchasscode.com/

Rather than, say, policing, Toronto’s police seem dedicated to issuing parking tickets. There was no help a couple years ago when our rental car was broken into, though the police are always out in force to issue yellow slips. Even on a Sunday day on an otherwise deserted beach road along the Scarborough Bluffs, the police are out dutifully ticketing every car parked along the ample shoulder.
Toronto Parking Enforcement

I assiduously tried all weekend to navigate the parking labyrinth, until overnight Sat, exhausted from the day’s battle with traffic and coming off a business trip to India, I overlooked a sign that prohibited parking from midnight-6 am even though all daytime Sunday was ok. Sure enough, at 1:50 am a ticket was placed on my windshield in this out of the way street. I was angry at myself and pissed off at Toronto, too, thinking of how the rental agency would gouge me in administrative fees above the ticket amount.

Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. I logged into the toronto.ca/parkingtickets, the #1 Google suggestion as you type to the .ca of the url, to find my ticket already paid. Anything involving a rental agency would take some time, so I did some hunting.

I had lucked out with a Quebec-plated car. The Toronto Star wrote in Out of province drivers get a pass on parking tickets, that perhaps because of the draconian parking regime, Toronto has no agreements with other Canadian provinces or US states to acquire information on non-Ontario cars. Prior efforts to acquire data or use collection agencies on the worst offenders, some with totals exceeding $30,000 have been abandoned as too expensive:

For three months, the Volkswagen Beetle regularly sat in the no-parking zones fronting the condo building at 100 Hayden St., amassing an impressive ticket collection.

“We called and got it ticketed,” said Sandy Maraj, the property manager for the condo building. “There would be several tickets on the car … She would crumple up the tickets and put them in the flower pots.”

Mike Guluk, the car’s Canadian owner, who spends half his time in Florida, has been fined $33,965 for 1,053 parking tickets issued between January 2008 and August 2012.

“It’s almost like a joke,” said Guluk, who lived in the Hayden St. condo for three months and says it was his wife, Sandy, who drove the car this summer. “(The parking officers) know me, they laugh about it and they say, ‘Well, here’s another ticket.’”

No one wants to cooperate with Toronto:

A big problem is that the municipal government cannot access data held by jurisdictions outside Ontario, meaning it can’t learn the name or address of a vehicle’s owner to collect the outstanding fine.

The city has canvassed “worst offender” areas, including Michigan, Ohio, New York and Quebec, for information-sharing agreements, but many governments cite privacy issues, Fabrizi said.

And Toronto does not want to anger tourists, either:

The city has since abandoned attempts to get scofflaws to pay up. The reason? It doesn’t want to scare away tourists, especially not after a “banner year” in 2011, Fabrizi said.

We want visitors’ experience to be pleasant,” Fabrizi said. “If they get a ticket where we recognize they don’t have knowledge of the parking rules or what have you, the city is taking the approach that we don’t want to pursue these folks aggressively.”

The article suggested that things may have tightened up but I can’t find any evidence this has been implemented:

The out-of-province free-for-all may have an end in sight, however. By late next year or early 2014, council will vote on the use of automated hand-held devices to provide up-to-date information about repeat offenders.

Information about cars with unpaid parking tickets would be uploaded to officers’ devices each day, similar to a system already in place for stolen vehicles. When they encounter a vehicle with more than three unpaid parking tickets, for instance, they would tow it, Fabrizi said.

Champion parking violater Guluck has the final punchline:

He also denied that he and his wife used to discard their parking tickets in flower pots or tree wells outside the Hayden St. condo.

“I can assure that both my wife and I would never ever do that,” he said in the email. “I may be a scofflaw (what a great word) when it comes to parking, but not when it comes to the environment.”

Ethics come into play though you might as well mull over that in anything but an Ontario car.

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  • purcitron

    @rapidtravelchai
    lol very amusing. was in toronto recently. parking was a pain in the ass but probably not any more than CHI or NYC.

    side note 1.. how come you didnt post this on your spacebook feed? glad i randomly checked your blog!

    side note/question 2.. do you know of any upcoming, weekend-type seminarrs/FTUs/meetups please? thanks

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @purcitron – 1) the auto-posting to social media for blogs breaks regularly no matter what services I or others try, I will look into it. 2) For the remainder of 2014 so far I am aware of late Sep FTU Advanced and mid Oct Chicago Seminars, both in Chicago, I think both have tickets available or active trade/swap waiting lists. Saverocity has an event in Phoenix, I am less familiar with their ticketing policies but it was announced as a sellout shortly after the event went public. First2Board regularly has weekend events as well.

  • purcitron

    @rapidtravelchai
    gotcha.
    will you be attending the 2 CHI events?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @purcitron – yes, attending and speaking at both CHI events.