What are the worst places to park in Canada? Here's the data on that

CBC's Marketplace analyzed more than 15 million tickets given out over the past five years in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax to find out where drivers get ticketed and why.

How does your city stack up? Marketplace analyzed millions of tickets in 5 cities

CBC’s Marketplace analyzed more than 15 million tickets given out over the past five years in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax to find out where drivers get ticketed and why. (CBC)

Want to know where you're most likely to get a parking ticket? How about where you'll pay the most?

CBC's Marketplace analyzed more than 15 million tickets given out over the past five years in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax to find out where drivers get ticketed and why.

The investigation — the most comprehensive analysis of parking ticket data ever done by Canadian media — reveals Winnipeggers are fined the most, while Haligonians are ticketed most often.

Meanwhile, Calgary's robot meter maids could be the future of Canadian tickets. And Toronto says it gives out tickets to help ease traffic — but the data disagrees.

The data obtained and examined by Marketplace doesn't reflect the amount in fines that drivers paid, only the tickets issued by cities.

Here's a breakdown of each city's situation for 2015.
Collectively, the total number of tickets handed out in 2015 alone added up to more than $171 million in fines. (CBC News)

Winnipeg: Canada's priciest parking tickets

Out of the five cities investigated by Marketplace, Winnipeg drivers were hit with the most expensive tickets: the average maximum fine came to $86 in 2015.

But Winnipeg does offer an out for those ticketed: Drivers can pay less if they pay early — an incentive also offered in Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax. (Only Torontonians are forced to pay full fines when it comes to parking violations.)

The maximum Winnipeg fine is almost twice the average ticket handed out in Toronto and three times the average of what a Halifax driver was charged.

Two of the five most ticketed spots in Winnipeg are located on streets that have disabled loading zones. According to municipal bylaws, the total fee for parking or partially blocking such spaces without a permit can be as high as $300 for drivers who pay more than two weeks after the ticket was issued.

On top of pricey tickets, two of the 10 most ticketed spots last year had signs that were contradictory, confusing or hard to see, netting the city thousands in parking revenue.

For example, drivers who park on William Avenue, right across from the city's Health Sciences Centre — the province's largest hospital — could face a fine for parking within three metres of a crosswalk.

This spot was one of the most ticketed in Winnipeg in 2015, with $96,000 in fines given out to more than 1,000 motorists on the north side of the street alone. Looking at both sides of the street, more than 2,500 motorists got a ticket on this block.

The problem with this spot? The crosswalk is easy to miss.

When Marketplace checked the spot in September, this "crosswalk" had no white lines painted across the road and no flashing lights overhead to alert cars.

Toronto: Traffic flow or cash flow?

When Toronto Mayor John Tory launched his six-point plan to reduce traffic congestion last year, he claimed that parking tickets were how the city fights congestion.

But most of Toronto's top ticketed spots last year had nothing to do with traffic flow. In fact, seven of the top 10 were far away from areas of typical rush-hour gridlock.

Topping the list? Sunnybrook Hospital, in the city's northeast end, where more than 9,000 tickets and $274,000 in fees were levied in 2015.

Also high on the list was a shopping mall in the Don Mills neighbourhood, also in the northeast, where close to 2,800 drivers were dinged, mostly for parking in a fire route. Overall fees charged: a whopping $643,000, with an average ticket cost of $230.

In total, parking officers in Canada's largest city charged $100 million in fines in 2015, handing out close to 6,000 tickets a day.

Calgary: The future is robots

What's faster and more efficient than a parking officer? In Calgary, robots issue more than one-third of parking tickets, according to the Marketplace analysis.

Since 2007, the Calgary Parking Authority has relied on what it calls "mobile photo enforcement vehicles" in the downtown core to catch drivers who park illegally or forget to feed the meter.

Each day, parking officers drive six Smart Cars equipped with cameras along downtown streets, taking thousands of photos of licence plates.

At the end of the day, employees load the photos into an online database and check the plates against drivers who paid for their parking spot using the city's ParkPlus electronic system.

If there is no match, drivers get mailed a $75 ticket.

Last year, these cars gave out close to 92,000 tickets. That works out to 252 tickets per day — a number that beats the daily average of almost any parking officer on foot.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the system is the first of its kind in the world, calling it both "very efficient" and "extraordinarily convenient" for the customer.

And the program is expanding. Calgary has signed a contract to bring the ParkPlus system to Edmonton. Other Canadian cities may soon follow suit, says Nenshi.

But some Calgary drivers call the system unfair, saying they were ticketed after pulling over to drop off someone or to take a phone call.

Halifax: Flooded with tickets

It may be the smallest city analyzed, but Halifax leads the way in terms of tickets: The city gives out the largest number of tickets per resident.

But Halifax's tickets are also cheaper than other cities: In 2015, the average parking ticket was only $27.52.

The most ticketed street? The tourist-friendly Lower Water Street, located right next to the city's boardwalk, marina, Maritime Museum and a number of restaurants. Last year, more than 6,100 drivers were charged a total of $157,350 for parking along the street, mostly on private property.

Another top ticketed location is the tiny Dresden Row. Running only a few blocks in downtown Halifax, the street is home to a large grocery store and a few restaurants. It's common spot for delivery trucks, which might be why the street is covered with no parking and no stopping signs.

Too bad for drivers: more than 3,700 tickets were issued in 2015, totalling $99,000 in fines.

Vancouver: Watch out tourists

Despite its density, Vancouver's data is near the middle of the pack. While nearly 393,000 tickets were doled out in 2015, totalling $32 million in fines, tickets are not given out more frequently or for more money than other Canadian cities.

Most of the top ticketed spots in the city are around downtown hotels or near hotspots like the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Canada Place.

Two of the 10 most ticketed locations last year were right across the street from a Whole Foods Market, with more than 4,700 people adding up to $70 to their grocery bills this way.

But the classic? A little spot along the 800 block of Richards Street, which ranks third on Vancouver's list. Last year, the spot yielded 2,692 tickets totalling almost $199,000.

It makes sense: the spot is right in front of a Vancouver Parking Authority office.

Based on a Marketplace investigation by Andreas Wesley and John Lancaster


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