Toronto Parking enforcement officers are expected to meet their daily quota, when issuing parking tickets. The City of Toronto has become reliant on the 80 million dollars a year that this practice generates.
“But — I had to use the washroom! Bad!” the SUV driver laments outside of Starbucks, his eyes searching for sympathy.
Enforcement officer Phil Heim shakes his head, handing the apologizer a $60 ticket for parking in a no-stopping zone.
The man didn’t help his case by leaving two babies in the back seat.
“An expensive bathroom break,” said Heim. “And don’t leave your kids in the car.”
In 2010, the City of Toronto doled out 2,787,071 of those irritating yellow slips, bringing $80 million into city coffers — $30 or so at a time.
On this recent snowy afternoon, Heim is walking the beat up at Eglinton and Yonge Sts. The mere sight of him sends people scrambling.
In a one-hour period, Heim writes about 10 tickets.
One goes to a woman with her four-ways on, parked at a crosswalk, who angrily rips the ticket off her windshield.
“I was just gone for two minutes. I had to drop something off at the kitchen store,” she seethes.
“It’s always two minutes,” Heim whispers to a reporter following him.
It’s one of the toughest jobs in the city. Heim says most people accept the fact they’ve taken a risk and paid the price, but there are times when drivers become verbally or even physically abusive.
In January this year, a female officer working in south Etobicoke was hit with a car door and pushed by an irate driver. In July, an Oakville man was charged after allegedly running down an enforcement officer and knocking him off his bike.
For the most part, Heim — a supervisor who typically handles special events — says people just try to talk their way out of a fine.
He’s heard it all: I was just picking up someone. I was just about to get change. I was just leaving.
One time, a woman who had illegally parked at Yonge and Bloor Sts. tried to tell Heim she had no choice — it was an emergency.
“I asked, ‘What was the nature of the emergency?’ She said there was a huge shoe sale at Bata Shoes and she did not want to be last in line,” he said.
The Star asked for a sample of parking ticket disputes received by the city for a two-week period this past spring. Of the dozen we received, some were quick-fix errors. A valid handicap permit not spotted. An overlooked paid-in-full pay-and-display ticket. A missing “no parking” sign. In each case, with photographic proof attached, the city cancelled those fines with apologies.
• “I was waiting in the passport office and was held up for more than assumed. (I was) only 14 minutes past,” complained a driver who was fined on Elmhurst Ave.
• “Your inconsistent and unclear signs as to where to park without risk is misleading and ruining our holidays. Do we have to send this email to your tourism and other departments to show the city is gouging tourists to increase revenues?” vented a driver from Waterloo in town for a concert who was ticketed $30 on Queen St. (The city instructed them that if they believe the signage is unclear there is an official dispute process where you can request a trial. The driver ignored the advice and was charged by the car rental company — plus a $33.90 service fee.)
• “The machine should not have issued a ticket if I couldn’t park,” said a driver who was ticketed 10 minutes after purchasing a pay-and-display.
• One individual purchased a street parking permit but didn’t have ink to print it off their computer “so I wrote the permit number and all necessary information on a piece of paper and put it on the dash.” (They were told if they can produce the original, the fine will be dropped.)
Here’s a tip: once the yellow ticket is printed, there’s no way to cancel it. Before appealing anything, take a scan of the city’s Parking Ticket Cancellation guidelines (at www.toronto.ca) to see if you have a case.
Parking by the numbers
• 2,787,071: Parking tickets issued in 2010 through the city’s police Parking Enforcement Unit and privately contracted enforcement officers.
• 16%: Percentage of those tickets cancelled for a variety of reasons.
• 11%: Percentage of recipients who request a trial.
• 11,156: Number of tickets dismissed or withdrawn, of the 268,170 tickets that went to trial in 2010.
• 27,412: Vehicles towed at the request of parking enforcement.
• 1,189: Stolen vehicles located in 2010 thanks to parking enforcement officers.
• 43%: Percentage of parking tickets in Toronto given to drivers living outside the city. (Most are from the GTA.)
Source: TPS Parking Enforcement Unit and City of Toronto 2010 Parking Ticket Activity fact sheet