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Parking ticket discount removed
Fine for meter offence now $20
But fee raised for no-parking zones

The City of Toronto has voted to boost its annual revenues by about $10 million by scrapping the discount for early payment of parking fines on a range of offences.
In most cases, the discount is $10 for paying within seven days. But that option was removed by council yesterday in a 32-7 vote, despite grumbling by some councillors that it amounts to a money grab.
With the elimination of discounts, motorists will face a single fine for a range of offences. They include: parking in a disabled spot, $150; a fire route, $100; and a no-standing, no-stopping or transit zone, $60.
In other moves, the fine for a meter offence was dropped to $20 from $30 and the fine for parking in a no-parking zone was increased to $40 from $30.
Those changes give a break to motorists who inadvertently overstay their time at a meter by a few minutes, while hitting those who disrupt traffic by parking where they're not supposed to, Councillor Case Ootes said.
"I can accept this because no-parking areas are there for the purpose of making sure the traffic flows, it's done for safety reasons," said Ootes (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth).
The changes are to begin in November and will generate $1.4 million in the final two months of the year, said Councillor David Soknacki, city council's budget chief.
The money raised this year allows council to eliminate plans to charge people $1 an hour to park on weekends and holidays at six city parks and to roll back existing weekend parking fees at four waterfront parks.
Next year, the windfall grows to $10 million over the full 12 months and the money will be used for general purposes, said Soknacki (Ward 43, Scarborough East).
He noted that the city began its budget deliberations this year facing a $344 million deficit and next year the initial shortfall could be $400 million.
While the city will be getting gas-tax revenues and more money for public health from the provincial government, and a rebate on the GST from Ottawa, it's not enough, Soknacki said.
"It looks as if the `new deal' agenda is there, but so are the city's expenses going up," he said. "So it's not a case of a (parking fine) grab just to grab the money. There's a very real shortfall."
Soknacki noted, for example, that the city used $92 million in revenues from city-owned Toronto Hydro to fund day-to-day expenses this year when the money should be going to pay down the city's debt load. At the end of 2003, the city was carrying net long-term debt of $1.4 billion.
Ootes noted that the city now issues about 3.1 million parking tickets a year and collects fines of about $70 million. He made no bones about the reason for yesterday's moves to increase the annual take: The city needs the money.
"We know what our motives are; it's partially revenue generation," he said. "We're becoming more and more dependent on those revenues."
Councillor Doug Holyday said if the city needs cash, councillors should have the courage to increase property taxes.
"To set fines based on how much money we're short isn't right," said Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre). "This is no more than a tax increase with a different name and it's charging people unfairly."
The argument that parking fines are set solely to act as a deterrent is losing validity as the city increasingly looks to fines as a cash cow, Councillor Howard Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) said.
"Frankly, I think shaking down motorists for parking fines has become more of an objective than we ever intended it to," Moscoe said. "I think that our parking control officers — notwithstanding that everyone will deny this — are on quotas."
Some councillors argued in favour of high parking fines.
"Quite frankly, if it encourages people to get on public transit, encourages them to get on their bikes over the summer, I think that's a great by-product," Councillor Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport) said.
Councillor Kyle Rae said he hoped high fines will discourage people from driving.
Rae (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) argued for a doubling of the fine for parking in no-parking zones but failed.
With files from Bruce DeMara
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