If you want to fight a parking ticket at Toronto City Hall, you might be surprised to find it’s easier than you think.
And that’s not a good thing, according to a report from Toronto’s Ombudsman Fiona Crean, looking into the way the city handles disputed parking tickets.
Crean’s report came as a result of “a sizeable number of complaints” from parking ticket recipients.
They complained the dispute process doesn’t give recipients adequate information about ways to cancel a parking ticket or dispute it, unfairly requires recipients to attend in person to request a trial, and that service at parking tag offices is inadequate and trials untimely.
“Complainants stated that the parking infraction dispute process seemed designed to encourage payment and discourage those with disputes from pursuing them,” she wrote.
The investigation took place over 11 months – and according to Crean, found some merit to the complaints. While she wrote that the process provides reasonable services to recipients given resources and demand, she agreed the information provided to recipients seemed tailored to discourage anything but promptly paying a ticket.
“The information that appears on the parking infraction notice downplays the trial option and gives no indication that tickets are in some cases cancellable without attendance in court,” she wrote. “The information on the City’s website highlights the payment option over the trial option and does not provide adequate information about other avenues through which recipients’ concerns may be raised.”
The city does have guidelines that explain how tickets can be cancelled. But they’re not accessible to the general public, wrote Crean.
And she said that while staff at parking tag offices are aware of those rules and are authorized to cancel tickets, “unless they are directly asked, staff do not offer any advice prior to filling the recipient’s trial request on whether the ticket is one that is covered by the Cancellation guidelines.”
Crean noted the city has made an effort to improve the dispute system. But she has recommended five measures the city could take to improve service to parking ticket recipients:
• The city should expand and clarify the information on challenging a ticket that’s on the infraction notice, the city website and parking tag offices;
• Expanding the use of telephone, email and fax contact for dealing with ticket issues where an in-person appearance isn’t needed;
• Requiring staff at parking tag offices to identify and help recipients whose ticket cancellation might not require a court appearance;
• Look at initiatives that would reduce court appearances, such as creating a fixed fine system and a delivery parking permit;
• Ask the Attorney General to refer the issue of creating an administrative penalty – which would remove parking tickets from the courts – to the Court of Appeal for a final ruling. Currently, the city believes that implementing such a measure would be vulnerable to legal challenge.