Free parking overnight on Toronto streets could become thing of the past

City staff are crafting a plan that would eliminate thousands of free overnight parking spots on streets throughout the downtown core and in East York, according to a new report prepared for city councillors.

Expanding parking permits system could reap $4M for the city annually

The city's street parking system allows some people to park for free overnight, while residents on other streets pay for a permit - a system that could soon be revamped. (Barry Smith/CBC News)

City staff are crafting a plan that would eliminate thousands of free overnight parking spots on streets throughout the downtown core and in East York, according to a new report prepared for city councillors.

Public consultations on the controversial plan are slated to run in north Toronto, East York and at City Hall between April 3 and 10, the report states. Exact times and locations haven't yet been finalized. 

City-issued overnight parking permits — which the report says are currently only required on about 60 per cent of streets — would become mandatory wherever parking is allowed in East York and the old City of Toronto.

If passed, the plan would mean thousands of spots on hundreds of downtown streets that are currently used as free overnight parking lots would require payment. Although it's technically illegal to park for more than three hours on these roads, city staff say they're not patrolled and tickets are only issued if a complaint is lodged.

Although the move could raise more than $4 million annually, city staff and councillors acknowledge expanding mandatory permitting will be controversial.

Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon says the city needs a more level playing field when it comes to overnight parking permits. (Rob Krbavac/CBC News )

"Anything related to parking, there's always a certain amount of fireworks," Kyp Perikleous, the city's director of transportation services said Thursday. "We want to make sure they understand that this is a fact-finding mission. We're going to present our findings to community council so they can make an informed decision."

Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon, who represents Ward 32 (Beaches-East York), said extending the program to all streets is only fair, despite the opposition.

"People get very angry and emotional about their parking spots," she said, "but they're city rights-of-way and they're for everyone."

Kyp Perikleous, director of transportation services for the city, says a final report on the plan to expand permit parking should be ready within a year. (Barry Smith/CBC News)

Her ward's streets are the most permitted in the district. Only one per cent require no permit. In neighbouring Ward 31 (Beaches-East York), 70 per cent of street don't require a permit, the report states.

"It's an equity issue, to me," McMahon said.

The streets in Ward 21 (St. Paul's) are among the least regulated. Two-thirds of the streets there don't require a permit and Coun. Joe Mihevc, who represents the ward, says he hasn't yet decided whether to back the expanded system.

"The earlier the conversation, the easier it is to consider sidewalk widening and other right-of-way strategies," says Coun. Joe Mihevc in a letter of his suggestions to the city.

"I want to hear from residents as to what they think," he told CBC Toronto Wednesday. "There are some advantages to going system-wide, and there are disadvantages. People are used to the existing system so the question is, why are we changing?" 

"Tempers can really flare up...Once you've tackled that issue, you're ready to tackle global peace. It's that kind of anger level."

Let each street decide 

Coun. Josh Matlow, who represents Ward 22 (St. Paul's), said that while flawed, the current system allows residents of each street to decide whether they want permit parking.

First, 25 per cent of residents must respond to a survey asking for their views on street parking. Of those, 50 per cent  plus one must agree to permitting.

That system would disappear under the expanded program.

"What I don't support is uniformly forcing every street in the Toronto and East York Community Council area to just overnight, literally, have permit parking without consulting residents street-by-street," said Matlow, since not everyone can make it to public consultations.

Perikleous said city work crews will begin measuring the streets that don't currently require permits within the next few weeks to determine how many parked cars can be accommodated. That will help the city determine how many more permits it can issue.

Could boost revenue by 36%

Parking permits generate about $11 million annually for the city, he said. Adding the remaining local roads to the overnight permit program would bump those revenues by more than 36 per cent.

Currently, residents must renew their overnight parking permits every six months, at a cost of about $93. 

Perikleous said a final staff report will be delivered to the Toronto and East York Community Council in early 2019. 

If community council votes to proceed with the plan, it must still be ratified by the full council.


Michael Smee

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Michael Smee has worked in print, radio, TV and online journalism for many years. You can reach him at