The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Meet the fire hydrant that makes Toronto the most money from parking tickets

  • Print

OTTAWA - It's the street equivalent of a desert mirage, an elusive piece of prime parking real estate that, for some strange reason, everyone else just happened to miss.

Eventually, however, a telltale slip of paper tucked beneath a windshield wiper offers an explanation: you parked in front of a fire hydrant.

Maybe it was an honest mistake. Or maybe you thought you could slip in and out before your illegal parking job caught the attention of a passing bylaw officer. Either way, now you've been hit with a hefty fine.

And as it turns out, some hydrants seem to be more tempting — and more costly — than others.

In Toronto, one hydrant stands above the rest. People are fined so often for parking in front of it that on Google's Street View, a white Toyota can be seen with a yellow slip under its wiper blade as a parking-enforcement officer walks away.

Since 2008, cars that parked too close to the hydrant at 393 University Ave. have been ticketed 2,962 times. Those fines add up to $289,620 — more than any other hydrant in the city.

So, why is this one particular hydrant such a cash cow for the city? There are a few possible explanations. It's right by the courthouse and near a major downtown intersection. The hydrant itself is in the middle of a busy sidewalk set back some distance from the street, and it would be easy enough for drivers to miss. No markings on the street make it obvious that the spot is off-limits.

Anthony Fabrizi, the city's manager of parking ticket operations, says the hydrant needs to be a certain distance from the street so pumper trucks can park there.

"There's lots of logic to the madness when you see behind the scenes," Fabrizi said.

In Toronto, the fine for parking within three metres of a fire hydrant is $100. It used to be $30 until the city hiked the fine in early 2008.

A Canadian Press analysis of Toronto's parking-ticket data found the city has collected more than $24 million since 2008 by fining people who parked too close to hydrants.

Fabrizi says all parking fines, including those from parking next to hydrants, add up to $80 million a year.

That may seem like a big number, but Fabrizi says it only represents about one per cent of the money needed to run all of the city's programs.

"The amount of revenue that parking generates is so minuscule compared to the overall revenue that it really doesn't serve a great purpose as a revenue generator."

About half the revenue from parking tickets pays for parking enforcement and operations, he added.

"Parking is a bit of a funny business in terms of budgeting," Fabrizi said.

"We have to budget in terms of firm numbers the costs associated with enforcing parking. So we know that there's about a $50-million cost ... so that is a $50-million budget that has to be paid even if no parking tickets were issued.

"Historically, we see that parking tickets and fines, once it goes through the courts, generate about $80 million a year. So the program pays for itself and then there's a little bit of a margin, about $30 million extra."

Most parking tickets in Toronto are handed out to people who let their parking meters expire or who park in no-parking areas. Tickets for parking too close to fire hydrants only accounted for 1.45 per cent of all parking infractions last year.

While the hydrant at 393 University Ave. is by far the city's golden goose, many others are also quite lucrative.

At 33 Elmhurst Ave., a hydrant lurks in the shadow of a large condo building in North York. Vehicles that parked there have been ticketed 2,253 times since 2008, with fines totalling $207,030.

A nearby federal government building may explain all the parking tickets. The Joseph Shepard building houses branches of Passport Canada, a Canadian Forces recruiting centre and several other federal departments.

If you're visiting Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery, don't park in front of the fire hydrant at 113 Merton St. This unassuming hydrant, tucked between two trees, is the city's third most-ticketed spot, with 2,165 fines handed out amounting to $212,300.

The city also tracks the province or state on the licence plates of people who get fined for parking too close to hydrants. Not surprisingly, almost every ticketed vehicle had Ontario plates. Drivers with Quebec plates were a distant second, followed by visitors from New York and Alberta.

But pity the two poor drivers with Hawaiian plates, who came a long way only to get busted for parking in front of hydrants.

Follow @steve_rennie on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jets This Week: Predicting the line-ups

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings enjoy Fridays warm weather to soak up some sun and gobble some grass on Heckla Ave in Winnipeg Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 DAY goose challenge - May 18, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Korea Veterans Association stained glass window at Deer Lodge Centre. Dedication with Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. March 12, 2003.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think e-cigarettes should be banned by the school division?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google