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An Investigation into the Parking Ticket Dispute System in Toronto

The Issue

We received a sizeable number of complaints from parking ticket recipients about the information available to the public and the adequacy of the process for disputing parking tickets.

These recipients alleged that the parking infraction notice does not provide adequate information about avenues of recourse; the City unfairly requires recipients to attend in person if they wish to request a trial; service at the City’s Parking Tag offices is inadequate; and trials are not provided on a timely basis.

Complainants stated that the parking infraction dispute process seemed designed to encourage payment and discourage those with disputes from pursuing them.

Our Investigation

We launched an investigation to fully examine the fairness and accessibility of the City’s process for handling parking infraction disputes. We considered the adequacy of:

  • The information available to members of the public to explain how they may respond to a parking infraction notice;
  • The procedures in place at First Appearance Facilities;
  • The process to hear parking infraction disputes in court; and
  • The time required to complete these processes.

What We Found

The investigation revealed that the current dispute process provided reasonable service to recipients, given demand and available resources. We also learned that the City was taking steps to enhance service provision.

However, we also found that there were ways in which the existing system could be improved. For instance:

  • Parking infraction notices downplay the trial option and give no indication that tickets are in some cases cancellable without attendance in court.
  • 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 of Toronto Parking Ticket Cancellation Guidelines are not accessible. The general public is not aware of them.
  • Staff at Parking Tag Operations offices can respond to recipients’ queries about parking tickets and are authorized to cancel tickets as provided by the Guidelines. However, unless they are directly asked, staff do not offer any advice prior to filing the recipient’s trial request on whether the ticket is one that is covered by the Cancellation Guidelines.

Our Recommendations

The Ombudsman recommended that the City improve the service provided to parking ticket recipients by:

  • Expanding and clarifying the information on challenging a ticket that is available on the infraction notice, on the City website and at the Parking Tag offices.
  • Further expanding the use of telephone, email and fax contact to explore ticket issues raised by disputants where an in-person appearance is not required.
  • Requiring staff at Parking Tag Offices to identify and assist individual ticket recipients whose issues do not require appearance in court.
  • Proceeding with initiatives that are designed to reduce unwarranted requests for trial. These would include the introduction of the fixed fine system and a courier/delivery parking permit.
  • Addressing the concern about a court challenge of an administrative penalty process for dealing with parking ticket disputes, by requesting the Attorney General refer the issue to the Court of Appeal.