Pardon Our Parking

June 14, 2010

It seems that nothing gets citizens’ knickers in a twist more than a parking ticket. While death and taxes are seen as the inevitably ugly aspects of going about the business of living, the acquisition of a $30 parking fine is nothing short of an outrageous assault upon our fundamental freedoms as car drivers and pop in shoppers. They are unfair, arbitrary and never, ever anyone’s fault but that of power mad traffic control Nazis and quota crazy, money grubbing local politicians.

So imagine the outpouring of bile when it came to light last week that there’s a whole ragtag system in place outlining in black and white who gets tickets, who doesn’t, who’s targeted, who’s exempted and how exactly one can go about fighting City Hall if one is so inclined. And guess what? It is unfair, arbitrary and there really is a quota system in place although, according to the Toronto Star, municipal pencil pushers call “the performance benchmarks for ticket issuance… ‘targets’”.

Targets alright. Like bulls-eyes on the backs of John Q. Driving Public everywhere unless of course you live in the tonier parts of town or work as a courier or are in desperate need of a religious fix. Not all drivers are created equally and if you know your way around the rules and regulations or have the money to pay someone who does, you are free to park wherever and whenever you want in Toronto.

That anyone would find any of this particularly shocking comes as a bit of a shock. Power and money buys privilege. Check. There are at least as many exemptions to the rules as there are rules themselves. Check. City Hall seeks to maximize profits through its parking enforcement arm. In the business world, that’s simply called increasing the bottom line and keeping shareholders happy. With  government, it’s considered overreaching and intrusive.

What’s most striking to me about the Secret Handbook On How To Beat Parking Tickets is the hodgepodge nature of it. Like much of our municipal jurisdictional structure, parking enforcement is still waiting to be streamlined into one unified code out of the 5 or so that were mashed up with amalgamation a dozen years ago. North York, for example, has a couple rules in place that don’t apply elsewhere in the city. So while we’re one big metropolis in name, we remain a place of neighbourhood specific parking regulations. It’s easy to see where that might get under an oblivious driver’s skin who’s just received a ticket for parking in a manner that wouldn’t be an infraction elsewhere in town.

And parking policies are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of defacto unamalgamation in Toronto. One city, many regulations.

Still, the empathetic bone I have for errant, ill-parking drivers is very brittle and far from set. There’s nothing more annoying than the plaintive noise coming from an aggrieved driver who’s just been issued a ticket.“What right do they have to give me a ticket for parking on a public road?! I pay my taxes. It’s my road too. I should be able to park wherever I want.” Yeah well, the flipside of that is who gave you the right to park your monstrosity on my public street? I pay taxes too. I’d much rather see that space being taken up for bikes or wider pedestrian walkways.

In case anyone’s still unclear of the concept, driving is not a right but a privilege and with that privilege comes responsibility. One of which is acquainting yourself with the parking rules in place when and where you decide to throw out the anchors. Most are pretty straightforward and when they’re not, well, you puts your money in and takes your chances. As the Secret Handbook shows, there are plenty of opportunities available to the enterprising, scheming freeloader who thinks just because they own a vehicle and some place is paved, it is their right and sacred duty to park there regardless of what any stinkin’ sign says.

idly submitted by Urban Sophisticat