Friday, July 23, 2004

Toronto Star - Toronto shuts out private parking tags

Toronto Star - Toronto shuts out private parking tags

Toronto City Council, after four long years of neglicting the issue despite it being brought up by Councillor Howard Moscoe on a number of occasions, has finally made the right move.

Private lots have been issuing tickets in the past that looked a lot like City of Toronto parking tickets. Well, now the city has struck back saying only city owned tickets can be used and not privately issued ones.

However, I do agree that revenue should not just go to the city for the use of the tickets because hospitals, schools and other public facilities have come to rely on parking fines in order to operate their facilities because of lack of government funding. But the ticket issue had to come to ahead at some point as police were receiving about five hundred complaints a year about the private tickets because people thought the city of Toronto had issued them.

Impark, a private lot operator, also has a right to complain because the tickets it issued also serve to ensure that payment for parking is made. But we all know how private operators in Ontario have been doing lately over charging motorists for use of private services. The Highway 407 came to mind recently of a Toronto Sun article on one guy who lives in Thunder Bay and has never been on the 407. Victor Bochko, who lives in Thundar bay, received a bill for as the Sun's Christina Blizzard noted in her February 18th column, "...for a drive on the toll highway on June 14, 2003, when Bochko was in Victoria, B.C., and his car was at home in the garage." In fact, Bochko has never driven in Toronto! To make matters worse, he asked the 407 to check the photo of the plate and the car which turned out to be a Buick. Bochko drives a Suburban. What happenned, according to Blizzard's column, was that the reader mistoke the 'L' for an 'E'.

Yet another report in the Toronto Sun (I am having problems finding the article) says he was billed for $25 for apparently using the 407. But here's the problem, he claims he never used the highway. So he refused to pay the bill. Some YEARS later the interest had gone over a hundred dollars and was removed and interest has started piling up again. A collection agency has even sent notification to his house as well. Yet he still refuses to pay the bill. Why? Because he has repeatedly asked 407 to provide a picture of either his car or his license plate entering the highway. Still nothing from the 407.

Now back to the ticket problem. What is there to stop the private operators from mistakenly issuing ticket to a car that was parked legally because the ticket on the dash was obsured by window tinting or other glass problems? Add to this the possibilty of human error in writing the wrong letter or number down. This last problem could be done because of simple human error, numbers or that have been misconstrued for something else, or the simple fact that in Canada it snows which might obscure the license plate or other identifying numbers. What then? Who does the car owner appeal to if a private ticket is issued? The courts? Several thousand dollars later in legal fees seems a little obnoxious compared to a $37.00 ticket.

Thus, I propose the city provide the tickets and sworn in officers in a bid to keep this problem under control. If the private lot is interested in issuing parking tickets, the sworn in officers would be paid by the private agency to issue the parking tickets on their property or properties alone. The ticket revenue from the issuing on private property would go back to the city and re-distributed back to the private operators based on the tickets issued. However, the private property owner would have to pay for the issuing of blank tickets from the city (like the owner would from a private firm now for their own private parking tickets) in order for the city not to be at a loss. The tickets would be tracked back to the private owner based on the serial numbers on the tickets. In other words, each ticket would have an owners code (like a UPC code) and the individual tickets would also have a number similar to a personal cheque number for tracking purposes. This way, the city of Toronto could track the tickets to both who is responsible for issuing the ticket (i.e. the owner) and provide a concrete way to track individual tickets through a dispute resolution system. Finally, the city of Toronto would have the right revoke the right of private property owners to ticket if they believe their is fraud going on. Currently, there is no recourse for individuals, except through a costly court case, to complain about being ticketed improperly. The city could provide this by providing the investigative services needed as well as manage the records of inquiries based on other infractions and, ultimately, remove the right for the owner to issue tickets and gather revenue from the issuance of tickets. Of course this process would have to be revenue neutral for the city (i.e. the costs of providing the service meet the revenue coming in).

But, again, this would be too simple of a problem for the politicians at the city to grasp and probably will never happen. So really its up to you, or better yet, take the TTC and to heck with parking your car!

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