Beware! Toronto Temporary Parking Permits!

Being labeled one of the Top 20 worst cities in the world for parking by an IBM study on commuter pain, I feel as though my experience may have some relevance to my fellow Torontonians. Let me begin with my personal experience, and then I’ll give you a broader picture of how screwed up the temporary parking permit system is in Toronto.

I wanted to park for 24 hours here, on sunny Beverley Street near the University of Toronto.

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So I went online and clicked on the new temporary permit parking link on the City of Toronto’s website. Followed through the instructions and read the disclaimers and terms. One term I paid particular attention to was the following:

Where parking meters or parking machines have been erected on a portion of a road in a permit parking area, the holder of a valid permit for that area shall not be required to deposit payment in the meter or parking machine, subject to the permit being properly displayed. [Source]

I noted this because Beverley Street has parking meters which I have so lovingly fed many times before. Next they ask me where I want to park. I put in the address, 222 Beverley, and say for 24 hours starting from 2pm that afternoon to 2pm the following day. The site came back with something similar to the following message:

Excellent! Parking was valid from 2pm to 2pm on 222 Beverley St for $9.04. That’s way cheaper and more convenient than filling up the meter! I was genuinely excited. I download the parking instructions. You can find that here if you’re interested in reading through the particulars. Here’s a convenient map of the area (6D) outlining the permit parking area:

The information in the PDF also talks a fair bit about the distinction between zoned parking and street parking. Zones help maximize the available parking by grouping a number of streets together. Beverley Street is in a zone. My little printed ticket (which I got after filling in my credit card info, license plate and all that), had big 6D letters on it. Zone. Got it. In the middle of the PDF you’ll find the line:

Permits issued on an area basis will have the corresponding area shown on the face of the permit.  A permit holder with such a permit may park on any street authorized and signed, which bears the same area code. [Emphasis their own] 

So, go ahead and check for me, Beverley Street is in the zone, right? Heck they even printed “222 Beverley Street” on the “Step 1 – Space is available page above. I was thrilled. This was going to be great.

Fast forward a few hours later and it’s 9 o’ clock. Paid parking is over anyways (ends at 9pm and you can park overnight for free until 8am), but I step out of my Porsche 911 Turbo Pontiac Sunfire and place the temporary permit on my dash. Then I head off on my merry way and don’t come back to my car until the next morning at 8am.

BLAMO! $30 ticket for failing to display receipt in windshield. I got this shot of the two pieces of paper beside each other.  Like any good detective, I needed to reconstruct the events, so I made a timeline.


Confused? Join the club.

The bigger, badder, uglier picture

There are two primary cases that can cause major confusion (and steep tickets):

Zoned parking

  1. Parking on a street with a “No parking except by permit only” allows you to park on that street with a temporary permit. Even if during the day, that part of the street is metered (paid) parking.
  2. Parking on a street in absence of the “No parking except by permit only” sign above means you cannot park on the street without paying the meter. Even if the city charged you for a temporary permit valid for that street number and street.
  1. Daily metered parking has no affect on whether or not your temporary permit is valid [Source]
  2. Only in the presence of a “no parking except by permit” sign allows you to park there willy-nilly all day long
  3. The lack of sign (which you are unaware of unless you read this website) implies you will be charged about $30 in addition to the $20 you paid for permit parking.
After speaking with one seemingly knowledgeable person at the City of Toronto parking permit division, he make clear that he was aware that the website was misleading, confusing, and ambigious. He cautioned that going to trial for this ticket would not be effective because the system has been in place for a long time and they would, I quote, “throw the book at me” about various by-laws. When asked about what they were doing with the website I was told that “they were working on it, but it was probably not going to change any time soon”.
As a web developer I find this particularly insulting. There is no special coding they need to do, they simply need to make it clear that even though you have a temporary permit valid for a street – it may or may not be valid.
I wrote this post a long time ago and never released it. Here’s hoping that it helps someone out. Best of luck outsmarting the parking officers!


  • Andy

    It is difficult to believe that they are not deliberately making it complex for the ca$h. They should have a comprehensive mapping system online that outlines available areas. The trial option *would* likely result in a cancellation, or at minimum a reduction.

    As a side note, I also find it ridiculous that they require a permit post-9p.m. Generally people visiting a city will leave by, say 12 or 1 a.m, but a 9p.m. limit allows just enough time for some mass ticketing.

  • Snnexports

    thank you! you just saved me $30.

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks! I have wondered about the areas that do not have the permit number on the sign… and also signs that look like the permit numbers have been covered up. It seems the city is being purposefully misleading about permissible permit parking. When in doubt, I check the other cars on the street to see how many are permits and whether or not they have current meter receipts.

  • Azdjedi

    Where did you get that area map!!?

  • mikemurko

    If you go to print a temp permit, just enter some fake info and a real street address and on the next page you’ll see a link to a PDF with details that contains a map.

  • mikemurko

    Hope I helped. I know it sounds all “tinfoi hat” but I wouldn’t be surprised if TO parking purposefully makes instructions confusing or misleading to get more revenue.

  • mugtastic

    i hate poorly constructed instruc. so i feel your pain – but of course it has to be this way – otherwise you could buy a temp. permit for an area along college or queen etc. and park in spots metered by the ticket spewing machines for basically free – some of these areas are like $3/30 mins now or somesuch!

    thanks for the info though – i couldn’t find an online map outlining the areas. remember looking at the laminated one they have at city hall once though.

  • mikemurko

    @mugtastic it’s true though! near my place in bay/bloor, i can get a temporary permit for 2 weeks (costs $21) and i park on the street RIGHT next to a paid parking meter (which charges like $3/h). for 2 weeks. it’s insanely cheap. no fines. guaranteed – I used it for months.

  • Jason

    You aren’t supposed to use these temporary passes unless you are staying at a residence on the street anyway. Filling in false information invalidates your ticket and is potentially a finable offense.

  • Walter

    This was an awesome piece of information. I spent hours looking for the map of my area.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Alfie Coolmen

    Dude, you’re driving a Pontiac, wadda ya expecting??

  • mikemurko

    Sunfire forever!

  • BJ

    Any city with a rigid parking scheme is a city that loves to pick-pocket its own residents and hit the locals hard. These tickets are largely not enforceable for anyone that doesn’t live in Ontario, so we’re the ones paying for the nonsense. I feel your pain, its essentially legal stealing. Toronto has become unbearable with the anti-car policies here. I support transit and multi-modal transportation in general, but the extreme anti-car and targeted pick pocketing makes the city less desirable each year. They should be making traffic flow better along with transit, not one over the other, but instead we have poor leadership that continues to shrink streets, restrict parking, and forcing everyone out of cars. These policies aren’t designed to help neighborhoods have more parking for locals, its penalizing anyone who drives to try and fulfill a larger anti-car agenda and its just a revenue tool. Safety and order have nothing to do with it. Thanks for airing your crazy experiences, I’ve had Toronto Parking hand out tickets in zones where I wasn’t parked after midnight yet they gave a ticket, and with the rife abuse of power there’s little stopping them.

  • BJ

    You mean paying for parking invalidates your parking spot? Am I hearing you correctly? This is the problem with Toronto, residents with thought processes that are out to lunch. We shouldn’t even have to pay to park to begin with, but that’s another debate for another day. Saying a spot is invalid after paying for it? Classic…

  • BJ

    Of course they make rules you can’t follow, that’s part of the game. Its not about safety, its about revenues and money for the city.

  • Steve Tanti

    I am a homeowner who has relied on permit parking on my street for nearly 8 years. I got a letter from Vince Loffredi, Supervisor, Permit Parking stating that my half block of the street is not licensed for permit parking. I am not eligible for a parking permit and as such will not be receiving a renewal notice for the upcoming term. According to his highness, they have changed parking pad requirements and that our property is too narrow for one. Mind you, everyone else seems to have a parking pad. Malicious!