Toronto to increase parking fines to smooth rush-hour gridlock
The City of Toronto hopes to streamline gridlock with a new system of fines for drivers who park in no-stopping zones, in addition to a lengthened rush hour period.
Toronto will crack down on rogue drivers with a five-pronged approach to ensure the city's transportation system operates as efficiently as possible.
"Illegally parked and stopped vehicles significantly contribute to traffic congestion and are costing motorists money in travel delays, vehicle operating costs and accidents," Chair of the Public Works Committee Denzil Minnan-Wong said at a news conference Tuesday.
"We've all experienced it: the flagrant behaviour of a few thoughtless individuals ... who don't seem to care about the implications of their decisions to park illegally, resulting in needless delays for other drivers."
The city announced Monday it would extend so-called "rush hour" times by one hour, affecting the time frame for some left-hand turns, bus-only lanes and parking on major streets.
New parking regulations will come into effect just after midnight on Jan. 23.
Key elements of the program include:
Fines for illegally stopping, standing or parking a vehicle on key rush hour routes or bicycle lanes will increase from a suggested fee of $60 to a fixed fee of $150.
The fine increase, coupled with heightened police enforcement, "shows the importance of maintaining unimpeded traffic flow," Minnan-Wong said.
Fixed parking fines
Implementing fixed fines is meant to streamline the court system, Minnan-Wong said. Offenders won't go to trial expecting a fine reduction, because judges will no longer issue reduced fines.
In court, a contested fine for a parking violation will either be dropped or will be the same price as written on the ticket, never reduced. Minnan-Wong expects fewer trial requests as a result.
Penalties for habitual offenders
Police were already permitted to tow any illegally parked vehicles, but in most cases, vehicles are just ticketed, Minnan-Wong said. The new policy will increase the frequency of towing by encouraging police with specific guidelines.
If an offender's vehicle already has three or more unpaid and undisputed parking tickets, the illegally parked vehicle will be automatically towed, as long as 120 days have passed since the last parking offence.
In addition to the inconvenience of having their vehicle towed, drivers face a towing fee of up to $200 and a daily storage fee of up to $81. This stage of the new system will begin on Feb. 5 to give drivers time to clear their existing parking tickets.
Vehicles displaying disability permits will be exempt from the towing policy, but will still be subject to conventional fine-collecting methods, including calls from collection agencies and the denial of new license plates to the vehicle's owner.
Fines for expired license plates
Parking enforcement officers will now be encouraged to ticket parked vehicles with expired license plate validation stickers with a fixed fine of $40.
"This will help remove abandoned vehicles from our streets and will act as a deterrent to illegal parking," Minnan-Wong said.
Changes to rush hour times
What drivers may not know is that, in addition to the parking program, the city will also introduce new rush hour times for when no-parking zones are in effect:
• For the morning rush hour, 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. will change to 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.
• For the evening, the hours will change from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Changing the rush hour times will have wider consequences for drivers, affecting left-hand turns, bus-only lanes and parking.
Transportation Services says approximately 30 intersections will be affected by the turn restrictions, primarily along King and Queen Streets.
The new rules are expected to come into effect in March 2014.