The City of Toronto needs to do a better job with the way it handles parking ticket disputes so more drivers can get accurate information, according to an ombudsman report.

While Fiona Crean found that, on balance, drivers are getting reasonable service, she said in her report there are some flaws, such as information on tickets that downplays the option for a trial. Drivers are also not being told there are ways to get parking tickets cancelled without going to court.

Crean began her investigation after receiving complaints that the dispute process for resolving parking tickets seemed designed to maximize revenue by making it quick and easy to pay the ticket, and frustrating and inconvenient to challenge them. The city hands out 2.8 million parking tickets a year.

She found that people wanting to dispute their ticket faced the following difficulties:

• Inaccurate information on the city’s website exaggerates the inconvenience of fighting a ticket in court.
• The parking ticket states people must choose between two options for paying a fine.  A third option of going to trial is not similarly highlighted, because, according to staff, it could lead to more people going to court.
• City staff members are not telling people about the existing cancellation guidelines that, in some circumstances, allow tickets to be withdrawn without a trial.

As a result of her report, Crean said the city manager has agreed to give drivers better access to the available information.

“But the City needs to go further if it hopes to solve the court backlog, which right now has people, in some cases, waiting as long as year-and-a-half to have their day in court,” Crean said in a release.

One way to reduce the court delays is with a fixed fine for parking infractions, which the city plans to implement next year.

“This should prevent drivers from going to court just to have their fine reduced,” she said.

Crean also recommended the following:

• Special parking permits for courier and delivery vehicles, which is being considered by the city, could also improve the system.
• Consider eliminating the fine system and move to an administrative monetary penalty for parking infractions, which would take the disputes out of the courts and send them to an adjudicator or tribunal to be settled.
• The city consults with Toronto Police Service on expanding the information on the parking ticket.