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Tow trucks and city parking officers were out in force Monday. ((Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC))

The City of Ottawa is cancelling nine parking tickets issued Monday after complaints from the public about a morning crackdown on traffic violations.

The crackdown came amid a transit strike that was in its 27th day. The strike has forced many transit users to drive, slowing and thickening traffic and making downtown parking spaces scarce.

In an effort to ease traffic and parking problems, the city temporarily changed some traffic and parking rules at the start of the strike, and announced additional changes in a news release Friday.

It cracked down on violators Monday morning, when tow trucks contracted by the city were out in force, towing cars parked in the bus lane on Slater Street between Metcalfe and Elgin streets.

Drivers said they had received no warning that the cars were illegally parked.

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Kevin Doyle said he parked in a bus lane for two weeks and never got a ticket or warning before his car was nearly towed away Monday. ((Danny Globerman/CBC))

Susan Jones, general manager of emergency and protective services for the city, said a bylaw officer was asked to have several cars towed because they were parked in an area reserved for buses. Nine vehicles were affected.

"Unfortunately, though, the signage wasn't that clear in terms of whether people were allowed to be parking there," she said.

Jones said that after reviewing the cases, she asked that the tickets be cancelled.

"And we will pay the associated towing costs," she added.

Jones said only tickets issued for that street will be cancelled, as signs posted on other city streets were adequate. Any tickets given out elsewhere have to be paid.  

Kevin Doyle's minivan was among the vehicles towed Monday morning.

'No tickets, no warnings, nothing': driver

"For two weeks, I've been parking there, and there's been no tickets, no warnings, nothing," he grumbled as he witnessed his vehicle being attached to the truck Monday morning.

Doyle managed to pay to get to his minivan before it was towed away.

It costs $54 to get a vehicle off the truck, compared with $75.60 to free it from the impound lot, said Greg Hall, a tow truck operator for Ottawa Metro.

He said the city told him that drivers were allowed to park in bus lanes but not in front of bus stops, as Para-transpo still uses them.

New traffic, parking rules during transit strike

Starting Monday, the City of Ottawa is limiting parking on some downtown streets to free up lanes, and extending no-stopping times to:

  • 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mayor Larry O'Brien said Monday the new restrictions were a response to the fact that people had changed their hours of work during the strike.

The city also:

  • Extended the length of green-light times along the Montreal, Ogilvie and Coventry roads corridor.
  • Opened to drivers a short portion of the bus lane of Road 174 at the Montreal Road exit.
  • Freed up more than 3,000 parking spaces at a number of city lots outside the core, as well as NCC lots at the Champlain Bridge and the Rockcliffe Parkway.
  • Will allow free parking at Lansdowne Park on Bank Street starting Jan. 6, unless an event is scheduled there.

A complete list of the new parking restrictions and parking lots is available on the City of Ottawa website.

Doyle would have had to pay $80 ticket on top of the fee for getting his minivan off the truck if the city hadn't cancelled the tickets.

Leonard Jaros's car had already been towed away by the time he found out about the crackdown.

"It kinda makes me sick," he said, adding that he had been parking in the same spot since the bus strike started. It would have been nice to get a warning that parking there wasn't allowed, he said.

"But I'll get in touch with the mayor. I'll get in touch with council [and] tell them. … Good Lord – get the message out there that this is not allowed."

He said he had noticed a no-stopping sign but assumed that was in effect only when buses are running.

Peter Lee, who works as a prep cook at a nearby hotel, shook his head as he saw what was happening. He said drivers are confused.

"If they'd have known they were going to ticket and tow them this morning, do you think they would have parked here? It's that simple," he said.

He added that he's sick of the strike and the city doesn't seem to care that it is disproportionately affecting working-class people who don't have the option of working from home.

Transit workers to vote Thursday

About 2,300 OC Transpo drivers, dispatchers and maintenance staff represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 have been on strike since Dec. 10.

Acting on a request from the city, federal Labour Minister Rona Ambrose ordered union members to vote on the city's latest contract offer by Jan. 9, and that vote is scheduled to take place Thursday.

The city claims that the offer is fair and reasonable, offering increases in wages, benefits and sick leave. Mayor Larry O'Brien has said most drivers will also get more time off and are less likely to get late-night shifts coupled with early-morning shifts.

Union leaders have said it differs little from the offer rejected by union members when they voted in favour of a strike weeks ago.