Tickets for illegally parking in accessible spaces up again in 2015

The number of tickets issued in Ottawa for illegally parking in a space reserved for the physically disabled hit a six-year high in 2015.

According to City of Ottawa parking data obtained through an access to information request, a total of 2,506 tickets were issued last year for the infraction, up 13 per cent from 2,208 tickets in 2014.

Troy Leeson leads the City of Ottawa’s parking enforcement program. He said the increase is the result of improved enforcement, thanks in large part to the city’s deputization program. The program trains property owners to enforce parking by-laws on their property, without having to resort to city officials.

“One of the biggest challenges with a person who parks (illegally) in disabled parking is time. They know it’s a big ticket, and they’re going to try to be in and out of their location as quickly as they can,” said Leeson. “But as more places take control of their own property, they have somebody on site and they’re able to address their parking issues much quicker.”

Most of the top 10 hotspots in 2015 were shopping centres with large parking lots, routinely patrolled by deputized officers. The most ticketed location was the Walmart Supercentre at the Ottawa Train Yards, where 133 tickets were issued. Close behind was the College Square Loblaws, with 130 tickets.

More tickets? More money in city coffers

Only people with certain health conditions can apply for an accessible parking permit. Accessible parking spaces are wider than conventional spaces, allowing easier access to and from the vehicle. They are also normally located as close as possible to building entrances.

cossette-disabled-parking-permit

An accessible parking permit sits on the dashboard of a car parked at the Walmart Supercentre at the Ottawa Train Yards. In 2015, 133 people received tickets there for illegally parking in a space reserved for the physically disabled — more than anywhere else in Ottawa that year. CARLETON UNIVERSITY/Marc-André Cossette

Anyone parked illegally in those spaces runs the risk of a $450 fine: the highest of all parking-related fines regulated by the city. If paid voluntarily within 15 days, the fine can be reduced to $350.

Either way, more tickets means more money in city coffers. Last year alone, parking officers issued $816,938 in fines for this infraction, but Leeson insists the focus is on compliance.

“Don’t get me wrong: the dollars are certainly a by-product of the program and the city will happily accept those dollars, but at the end of the day,” he said, “it’s about making people aware of the by-law and ensuring they leave the spaces available for those who need them.”

Enforcement only part of the solution

James Hicks lives in Ottawa, walks with a cane, and knows first-hand the frustration of finding someone parked illegally in an accessible parking space.

“It drives me crazy,” he said. “I’ll knock on their window and say, ‘You know, you do realize that if you’re here, someone else can’t park here who needs to, right? Think about it.’ ”

Hicks is the national co-ordinator of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, an organization working to ensure equal access for people with a disability across Canada. He welcomes the city’s efforts to crack down on illegal parking, but says ticketing alone won’t solve the issue.

“Most of the people that I know who get tickets tend to be repeat offenders,” he said, adding that more must be done to raise awareness about the importance of accessible parking.

“I do think that a campaign around what those spots are, indicating what the implications are for people if you park (illegally) in those spots — that that maybe will help give more awareness,” he said.

In the meantime, Troy Leeson has a simple message for anyone thinking about parking illegally: “Leave the spots to those who need them.”

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