It’s a small part of big-city living that nobody loves: getting a parking ticket.
But parking enforcement is essential to keeping the city running, yielding anywhere from $95 to $100 million in annual revenue.
In 2017, the most recent year for which complete data is available, more than 2.1 million tickets for parking-related offences were issued across the city, the vast majority of them by about 300 parking enforcement officers who are technically civilian employees of the Toronto Police Service.
Uniformed police officers, including traffic unit officers, issued a mere 10,723 tickets, just 0.5 per cent, according to a police spokesperson.
There’s also a veritable army of municipal law enforcement officers, numbering around 2,500, who are hired by private-property owners and public institutions such as hospitals and universities. This little-known group is empowered to provide security and issue parking tickets at an estimated 12,000 properties across the city.
While all revenue from parking tickets goes directly to city coffers, property owners benefit by ensuring their lots are secure and function smoothly and by sending the message to potential scofflaws that there’s a penalty for not following the rules.
These municipal law enforcement officers — trained and certified by the Toronto Police Service in a program that has been around for two decades — issued about 10 per cent of all parking tickets in 2017.
Here is a list of Toronto’s Top 10 spots for tickets issued in 2017. The numbers, based on an analysis of City of Toronto data, show that hospital visitors, students and even those already facing legal troubles often bear the brunt of parking enforcement.
1. 2075 Bayview Ave. — 8,232 tickets issued
A perennial chart topper, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has 4,500 parking spaces, which it oversees using its own staff parking officers — certified municipal law enforcement officers — rather than a private company. A statement from the hospital to the Star notes most tickets are issued to people parking in drop-off areas as well as fire and ambulance lanes and spots for people with disabilities. Parking at the hospital is not cheap: $4.75 a half hour or less on weekdays with daily maximums of $26. Evening maximum rates are $10 and weekend/ holiday rates are $15. City coffers were potentially enriched to the tune of $247,205.
2. 20 Edward St. — 6,302 tickets issued
There’s a hole in the ground where the World’s Biggest Bookstore operated for 34 years before closing in 2014. But there’s no parking allowed on the north side of the street, a short walk to Yonge St., Yonge-Dundas Square, the Eaton Centre and the 14-storey Atrium on Bay on the south side of Edward St., which houses an Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation prize office.
3. 199 Richmond St. W. — 4,060 tickets issued
This 31-storey, 337-unit highrise condominium is located in the heart of the Entertainment District, near the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and venues such as Roy Thomson Hall and the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Parking on private property accounted for 2,292 offences — more than half the total — although not feeding the Green P machines on the south of side of Richmond St. W. resulted in 703 tickets while 324 cars were ticketed for parking during rush hour.
4. 1265 Military Trail — 3,713 tickets issued
Set on 303 acres in the city’s east end and with more than 13,000 undergraduate students attending, the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus has 10 parking lots with daytime rates of $3 an hour, although a main lot has a four-hour maximum stay. The lots are patrolled by city parking enforcement staff and campus police special constables. Parking on private property tickets were issued in all but 29 cases. Tickets may (or may not) be cancelled by campus police. The campus website notes “infractions will not affect your academic record.”
5. 3401 Dufferin St. — 3,468 tickets issued
Yorkdale Shopping Centre bills itself as “Canada’s most profitable shopping centre,” with more than 18 million visitors annually, more than the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the CN Tower and Canada’s Wonderland combined, the company notes in a statement to the Star. “Ensuring that our shoppers have convenient access to parking is a priority,” the company said, noting commuters hoping to save a few bucks on parking is a major issue despite a nearby TTC parking lot. And who knew? Parking at the mall for more than five hours can net you a ticket.
6. 15 Marine Parade Dr. — 3,045 tickets issued
Humber Bay Shores Park has a mere 14 spaces in its parkade, a minuscule amount to handle visitors to the scenic Etobicoke waterfront, which includes Humber Bay Park to the west and the majestic Humber Bay Arch Bridge to the east, which leads to the Martin Goodman Trail along the Toronto waterfront. Not paying the parking machine accounted for two-thirds of total offences while parking along the street resulted in more than 500 tickets. Oddly, 196 vehicles were ticketed at the site for failing to have a valid Ontario licence plate.
7. Laplante Ave. — 2,862 tickets issued
There are no street numbers on Laplante Ave., an innocuous two-block street running between Gerrard St. W. and College St. That’s because everything backs on to Laplante, including the Ministry of the Attorney General at 720 Bay St. and a multi-storey parkade and ground-level parking lot on Elizabeth Street, which faces the east side of the Toronto General Hospital. Not feeding the Green P machine accounted for nearly half of total offences, while parking at prohibited times led to 1,079 tickets being issued.
8. 103 The Queensway — 2,747 tickets issued
Two condo towers at 103 and 105 The Queensway, 31 and 28 storeys respectively, are nestled in a private road adjacent to a townhouse development. As a result, the narrow roadway is a fire route, meaning virtually no street parking at all. As a result, the NXT and NXT II have a lot of people parking on their private lots (possibly Airbnb guests, a city official surmised). Of the total, issued, only six tickets were issued for offences other than parking on private property.
9. 150 Gerrard St. W. — 2,565 tickets issued
With one of the city’s busiest emergency departments with than 28,000 patients annually, the largest organ transplant centre in North America and the number one research hospital in Canada, it’s not difficult to understand why so many people are coming and going at Toronto General Hospital. Ample parking abounds at 201 Elizabeth St. at $4.50 a half hour with $25 daily rates. That’s incentive enough for many to take their chances on illegal street parking. Parking at a signed transit stop resulted in 100 tickets while 120 vehicles were tagged for not having a valid Ontario licence plate.
10. 1000 Finch Avenue West — 2,536 tickets issued
It’s not the Mr. Greek or the GoodLife Fitness in the two 10-storey towers at this location that draws an audience. It’s the Metro North criminal court that has defendants, witnesses, family members and court officers coming and going in such high numbers. The property owner pays the private firm Parksmart to monitor the lot. Only five tickets of the 2,538 total issued in 2017 were for offences unrelated to parking on private property.
David Weisz is a Toronto-based journalist specializing in data-driven reporting. He currently works as the in-house data journalist at Zolo.