City hydrants bring in major revenue in parking tickets

Since 2008, cars that parked too close to the hydrant at 393 University Ave. have been ticketed 2,962 times

This fire hydrant at 393 University Ave. is Toronto's most lucrative

It's the street equivalent of a desert mirage, an elusive piece of prime parking real estate that, for some strange reason, everyone else just happened to miss. Eventually, however, a telltale slip of paper tucked beneath a windshield wiper offers an explanation: you parked in front of a fire hydrant.

Maybe it was an honest mistake. Or maybe you thought you could slip in and out before your illegal parking job caught the attention of a passing bylaw officer. Either way, now you've been hit with a hefty fine. And as it turns out, some hydrants seem to be more tempting (and more costly) than others.

In Toronto, one hydrant stands above the rest. People are fined so often for parking in front of it that on Google's Street View, a white Toyota can be seen with a yellow slip under its wiper blade as a parking-enforcement officer walks away.

Since 2008, cars that parked too close to the hydrant at 393 University Ave. have been ticketed 2,962 times. Those fines add up to $289,620, more than any other hydrant in the city.

So, why is this one particular hydrant such a cash cow for the city? There are a few possible explanations. It's right by the courthouse and near a major downtown intersection. The hydrant itself is in the middle of a busy sidewalk set back some distance from the street, and it would be easy enough for drivers to miss. No markings on the street make it obvious that the spot is off-limits.

Anthony Fabrizi, the city's manager of parking ticket operations, says the hydrant needs to be a certain distance from the street so pumper trucks can park there.

``There's lots of logic to the madness when you see behind the scenes,'' Fabrizi said.

In Toronto, the fine for parking within three metres of a fire hydrant is $100. It used to be $30 until the city hiked the fine in early 2008.

A Canadian Press analysis of Toronto's parking-ticket data found the city has collected more than $24 million since 2008 by fining people who parked too close to hydrants.

Fabrizi says all parking fines, including those from parking next to hydrants, add up to $80 million a year. That may seem like a big number, but Fabrizi says it only represents about one per cent of the money needed to run all of the city's programs.

``The amount of revenue that parking generates is so minuscule compared to the overall revenue that it really doesn't serve a great purpose as a revenue generator.'' About half the revenue from parking tickets pays for parking enforcement and operations, he added. ``Parking is a bit of a funny business in terms of budgeting,'' Fabrizi said.

``We have to budget in terms of firm numbers the costs associated with enforcing parking. So we know that there's about a $50-million cost ... so that is a $50-million budget that has to be paid even if no parking tickets mwere issued.

``Historically, we see that parking tickets and fines, once it goes through the courts, generate about $80 million a year. So the program pays for itself and then there's a little bit of a margin, about $30 million extra.''

Most parking tickets in Toronto are handed out to people who let their parking meters expire or who park in no-parking areas. Tickets for parking too close to fire hydrants only accounted for 1.45 per cent of all parking infractions last year.

While the hydrant at 393 University Ave. is by far the city's golden goose, many others are also quite lucrative.

Here's a list of Toronto's most lucrative hydrants:
1. 393 University Ave., $289,620
2. 112 Merton St., $212,300
3. 33 Elmhurst Ave., $207,030
4. 56 The Esplanade, $191,110
5. 5519 Yonge St., $173,330
6. 99 Atlantic Ave., $163,760
7. 361 University Ave., $152,530
8. 43 Elm St., $152,220
9. 5100 Yonge St., $145,310
10. 6 Spring Garden Ave., $131,110
(Source: City of Toronto)

At 33 Elmhurst Ave., a hydrant lurks in the shadow of a large condo building in North York. Vehicles that parked there have been ticketed 2,253 times since 2008, with fines totalling $207,030.

A nearby federal government building may explain all the parking tickets. The Joseph Shepard building houses branches of Passport Canada, a Canadian Forces recruiting centre and several other federal departments.

If you're visiting Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery, don't park in front of the fire hydrant at 113 Merton St. This unassuming hydrant, tucked between two trees, is the city's third most-ticketed spot, with 2,165 fines handed out amounting to $212,300.

The city also tracks the province or state on the licence plates of people who get fined for parking too close to hydrants. Not surprisingly, almost every ticketed vehicle had Ontario plates.

Drivers with Quebec plates were a distant second, followed by visitors from New York and Alberta. But pity the two poor drivers with Hawaiian plates, who came a long way only to get busted for parking in front of hydrants.

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  1. JustSaying posted on 08/11/2014 10:18 AM
    Isn't it about time the city paints the sidewalk Yellow to demark Hydrant No Parking Places and stop making vehicle owners pace off how far they think they have to be away from a hydrant - and in the case of this money maker for the city - alert drivers there is a hydrant you may not know is even there?
    1. Karl Burgin posted on 08/11/2014 10:37 AM
      @JustSaying Agree with you here. Also listened to the round table this morning on the issue, and didn't agree with all panelists, except for Lori, who was also for the idea of painting the curb red.
      Rob Ford had already put this idea forward already a few months ago though. And he's trying get this initiative going again.
      What's with the hold up?

      And why is the hydrant green? And in the centre of the sidewalk behind a plant...
      If this was a matter of making money, then fine. But if its also a matter of safety, then its very poorly laid out.
    2. Fact Provider posted on 08/11/2014 11:24 AM
      @Karl Burgin You and Lori are certainly wide awake this morning.
      The curb IS painted red... or didn't you notice in your hurry to comment on everything?
    3. Karl Burgin posted on 08/11/2014 11:30 AM
      @Fact Provider Well obviously fool, when I'm driving to work, I can't look at a picture to see if the sidewalk is painted red or not. I just go by what I hear.
      And what I heard is that Blatchford and Agar was against it. John Parker was on the fence, and Lori was for it.

      But I guess you wouldn't notice FALSE PROVIDER in your hurry to drop stupid comments.
    4. StevenM_5 posted on 08/11/2014 11:38 AM
      @Karl Burgin A quick read of the story answers your question:

      "And in the centre of the sidewalk behind a plant"

      "Anthony Fabrizi, the city's manager of parking ticket operations, says the hydrant needs to be a certain distance from the street so pumper trucks can park there"

      As for the behind the plant, that was them taking the photo at a stupid angle. The first photo has it in the open.
    5. Fact Provider posted on 08/11/2014 12:56 PM
      @Karl Burgin Thanks for your continued proof of offering commentary for the sake of offering commentary - when you are so obviously uninformed and, therefore, wrong as usual.

      BTW - I'm glad to see that the computer fix-it shop is open Mondays again. Enjoy swapping those video cards.
    6. Karl Burgin posted on 08/11/2014 01:00 PM
      @Fact Provider Be careful FACT PROVIDER.
      You've said it yourself- your name suggests that you present facts. But as of right now, you're not even making any sense.

      Maybe its time for a name change for you......
      BS Provider sounds more accurate
    7. Fact Provider posted on 08/11/2014 01:08 PM
      @Karl Burgin Once again you sink to the occasion.

      You are proven wrong consistently and then you deflect repeatedly as a result.

      Go swap a video card computer tech boy.
    8. Karl Burgin posted on 08/11/2014 01:16 PM
      @Fact Provider Rather be a deflector than a stalker.
      But then again, trying to answer your last comment is a task I would reserve for a mentally ill patient.

      And FYI, I don't swap video cards for a living- I do a heck of a lot more than that, and I'm in charge of a lot more than that.
      Then again, I wouldn't expect you to know any better. You're beginning to sound like the cyber-stalker donny p.- trying to pin down where I work and live.
      Do you guys share the same basement????
    9. Fact Provider posted on 08/11/2014 01:32 PM
      @Karl Burgin Ah yes ... as only the wildly successful and influential Karl could tell it.

      That important position you hold must explain why you're still to be seen in that beat-up Impala around the area (between computer parts shops).

      Look in the mirror, Karl, and observe an image of narcissism.
    10. Karl Burgin posted on 08/11/2014 01:41 PM
      @Fact Provider So i guess from your non-answer, you both share the same basement. Hope you guys bunk in separate beds.

      And another example of stalker activity- trying to figure out what car I drive. In the infamous words of Rob Ford, "anything else"?
    11. Fact Provider posted on 08/11/2014 01:57 PM
      @Karl Burgin Sure.
      Did you look in the mirror yet?

      ... or don't they have any in Best Buy employee washrooms?
    12. Galadriel posted on 08/11/2014 04:37 PM
      @Karl Burgin Ok, just a quick reply...I was interviewed this morning as I work nearby...the hydrant was painted green because of filming on university ave on the 12:30 p.m. it was once again painted yellow..
      However, whether or not the red curb is there makes no difference...the stupid thing is so far back that you can't see it from the road and your vision is totally blocked by the planter
    13. Galadriel posted on 08/11/2014 04:38 PM
      @StevenM_5 actually, when you are walking by it or attempting to park there you do NOT SEE THE COLOUR OF THE CURB NOR CAN YOU SEE THE is too far back and the planter does indeed block your vision
  2. AbbyW posted on 08/11/2014 10:19 AM
    Listening to the roundtable this morning John Parker mentioned the Parking Enforcement department costs $ 50 Million and generates $ 80 Million. Costs definitely out of control here.
  3. JaneC_8964 posted on 08/11/2014 10:53 AM
    Rob Ford is bang on with painting the curbs red.
  4. SophieK_1215 posted on 08/11/2014 10:55 AM
    The curb IS painted red so there really is no excuse for parking there. Red curb means no parking no matter what the reason hydrant or loading zone etc.
  5. dama posted on 08/11/2014 02:18 PM
    If it is green, it is NOT a fire hydrant.. it is an ornament of a "pretend" dwarf plant..
    , so fight the ticket..
    1. Galadriel posted on 08/11/2014 04:40 PM
      @dama it is not normally was painted by to yellow this morning by 12:30 p.m. since it had been painted green for filming over the weekend...
    2. dama posted on 08/11/2014 04:46 PM
      @Galadriel I know.. .. so send your yellow tickets to the film company.. and chastised city hall for letting them vandalised the red fire hydrant to green..
  6. BrendaK_3 posted on 08/11/2014 02:50 PM
    I'm not sure I would have noticed it that far back
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