The TTC says 13 vehicles serving persons with disabilities have been ticketed by Toronto Parking Enforcement since the city began its zero tolerance crackdown on downtown rush hour routes.
It’s enough of an issue that Toronto’s Disability Issues Committee is calling on police to use discretion when issuing parking tickets to Wheel-Trans vehicles and accessible taxis when they’re picking up or dropping off a person with a disability.
Ward 29 Councillor Mary Fragedakis has written a letter to the Executive Committee acknowledging that it “is very important to address the chronic congestion issues facing the city” but notes several bus or taxi drivers have either received tickets, “or are feeling prohibited from providing the proper level of service (i.e. posting their “missed pick-up” notices) due to the threat of impoundment.”
George Johnstone is the Operations Supervisor for the Toronto Police Parking Enforcement Unit. He says there were a number of Wheel-Trans and accessible taxis ticketed when the zero tolerance policy was first adopted in January. He says police responded by initiating training suggesting officers need to use discretion. He’s not aware of any recent cases where the vehicles have been ticketed.
TTC spokesperson Jessica Martin explained by email that Wheel-Trans vehicles aren’t ticketed when serving a customer. “In the off-chance it is (ticketed), a TTC representative will attend court on behalf of the operator and present a “run sheet” which would prove the vehicle was serving a customer at that time. The TTC does not provide representation for contracted vehicles, but will provide run sheets as requested.”
Vehicles displaying accessible parking permits are exempt from parking restrictions outside of the morning and afternoon rush hours. But parking regulations allow for taxis, limos and buses to stop for pick-ups and drop-offs no matter where or when.
So what if the driver has to leave the vehicle on a downtown route during rush hour to give assistance to a customer with a disability waiting inside a building? Does the exemption still stand?
The vehicle is unattended and may effectively be stopped or standing but nonetheless still providing a pick-up or drop-off service.
Johnstone says that’s where the officer’s discretion comes in. They have to understand that a Wheel-Trans bus or an accessible taxi “isn’t just parked” when the driver is in the building assisting a customer.
But Fragedakis says we can’t leave it up to the discretion of police. The lack of clarity and understanding on both sides has meant some people have been left waiting for vehicles that have already come and gone for fear of being ticketed.
She says the answer is “to rework the protocol rather than asking police to look the other way. In the rush to address congestion, we haven’t crossed all the ‘T’s’ and dotted the ‘I’s’. The result is unintended but it needs to be addressed.”
The matter goes to Toronto’s Executive Committee on March 25th.