Downtown Toronto Parking Expensive? Don’t Worry, Just (Improperly) Use An Accessible Parking Pass

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The street in front of my condo building does not permit parking during the day, but a few months ago, I noticed that the same few vehicles were parked there every day, arriving in the morning and departing in the afternoon. They all displayed Toronto Accessible Parking Permits (a.k.a. handicapped parking permits), which allow them to park in no parking areas and otherwise ignore most parking laws. I thought it was a bit odd that so many handicapped people would all of a sudden decide to park on our street each day during business hours, so started to watch for them arriving in the mornings.

What I saw (and still see) is a blatant misuse of accessible parking permits by people who appear to have no physical disability that would prevent them from parking in a nearby paid parking lot, or in paid street parking spots. Many of them appear to be working at the construction sites in our neighbourhood – of which there are many – although a relatively new one seems to be a local shop owner. They are mostly expensive vehicles – a Mercedes, a BMW, a Lexus and a couple of Ford F150s – which means that the owners can probably afford to pay for parking.

A call to Toronto Parking Authority, which would normally ticket and/or tow cars that are illegally parked, won’t touch anything with an accessible permit; they said that they would send someone to put a “notice” on the cars one day, but never showed.

Normally, I would just live and let live on this one, but there are a few problems with this: first and foremost, I have a friend in the building who uses a walker, and has the TTC WheelTrans service pick him up in front of the building several times each week. When the “fake” handicapped drivers have the entire front of the building blocked, he has to negotiate between the cars, or walk down to our driveway, in order to get to the WheelTrans vehicle. In today’s snow, I imagine that he won’t try to venture out at all, since there is no guarantee that the WheelTrans vehicle – which must be reserved several hours in advance – will be able to stop at the curb in front of the building to pick him up.

The other problem is with deliveries and garbage pickup: with the vehicles parked there, our garbage and recycling trucks often can’t get to the curb to pick up the bins, and trucks making deliveries have no place to stop in front of the building and may refuse to make deliveries.

Here’s a couple of examples. In the first pictures (taken earlier this week, without the snow), the driver parks in front of the building in the no-parking zone, gets out of his car, walks around to check that he is clear of the driveway, then puts the handicapped permit in his windscreen and walks away around the corner. This car has been parked there every day from early morning until evening for the past week or more. The later pictures (with the snow) show one of the worst offenders, who has parked in the no-parking zone several times per week for the past three months; today, there were other vehicles already parked in the no-parking zone so he went around the corner to the side street where parking is allowed but requires payment – except if you have an accessible parking permit. First, he parks his truck, then gets out and walks away across the park without purchasing a parking ticket from the machine. The last two shots show the accessible parking pass in his windscreen (I have taken close-up shots of this same truck and the parking permit on other days).

I am not a doctor, and do not claim to be able to diagnose any kind of physical condition, especially from afar, but every person who I have seen using an accessible parking permit on our block seems to exhibit the ability to walk several blocks to their place of work, then back again later in the day. Other residents in our building have made the same observations.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any recourse to curb this behaviour: calls to 311 just get the standard line that the city won’t ticket the cars because of the accessible parking passes, but they also won’t bother to investigate if the passes are being used improperly. I’ve put notes on the cars asking them not to park there on garbage pickup days, which works for a day or two before the same activity restarts, and I really don’t want a new job as a meter maid. I sent an email to Jack Lakey, a.k.a. The Fixer at the Toronto Star, who investigates problems with Toronto municipal services, but haven’t heard whether he will take this up. Other than that, we seem destined to wait out the heavy construction that brings out this sort of parking behaviour.

4 Comments

  1. Chris Church says:

    If there is a system, there will be people scamming it. This just seems like blatant fraud, but you have to wonder – how can the process of issuing the permits be improved? I suppose if a legitimately disabled person gets the permit and “shares” it then enforcement is left up to the after the fact route, but it would see like there are an abundance of these passes that are getting into the hands of (I will admit, “seemingly”) folks without overt mobility challenges. I’m sure its frustrating… I wouldn’t like it either.

    1. Chris, there does need to be some enforcement after the fact. Either these people have obtained a permit under somewhat questionable pretenses (I know of people who have a permit because of a doctor’s note regarding a chronic condition that does not prevent them from doing a full day of physical work, but somehow prevents them from paying for parking) or are borrowing one from a friend or family member.

      The enforcement part is difficult because it does require “staking out” an area to see who actually parks while using these permits improperly, which takes time. I am hoping that by pointing out an area where this is a chronic problem will encourage the city and/or police to crack down around here, and maybe send the message that this is not cool.

      Also, after a comment on Facebook reminded me, I sent a link to this post and a description of the problem to my city councilor, Joe Cressy, although weeks after the municipal election his website is still “coming soon” so not sure that he’s up to date.

  2. Todd says:

    I am curious, did you make any progress with this? I am a volunteer for people with physical and mental impairments, and I watch very able-bodied construction workers using handicap parking permits on a daily basis. I am at the point where I am thinking to create a website and start posting images of them parking and then working on the job. People who really need the parking spaces are being forced out by those that are literally committing fraud, but I am unable to find any evidence that the city is making an attempt to rectify this sort of behaviour.

    1. I was successful in having a handicapped loading zone created in front of our building for use by our disabled neighbour to access WheelTrans, which helped him considerably. Having solved the immediate problem, I stopped worrying about the rest of the illegal parking. There is an online form for submitting information such as this to the police directly: https://www.torontopolice.on.ca/core/driving_complaint.php

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