Toronto drivers might be less inclined to pull over to grab a morning coffee or pick up groceries on the commute home if the city adopts a proposal that would more than double fines for stopping illegally on main streets during rush hour.
The proposed new fines gained the support of the city's public works committee on Wednesday and will be debated next month at council. They would impose a $150 penalty for drivers who stop or park on major roads at the busiest times of the day, and are part of a push to battle gridlock. The current penalty is $40 for a no-parking offence and $60 for infractions in a no-stopping or no-standing zone.
The plan also would impose the $150 fine for the owners of cars that obstruct bike lanes at any time of day.
"A $60 fine, that's an annoyance. A $150 fine, that starts to hurt, especially if it is associated with a tow that is going to cost you another $150 bucks," said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works committee.
Councillor Mike Layton began the push for higher penalties this fall, recommending with Councillor Josh Matlow that the fine be hiked to $500. After Wednesday's vote, he said he was satisfied the $150 charge would be an adequate deterrent. "I think it shows very clearly we are taking this seriously," he said.
Others on the committee were not so sure, arguing that raising fines would not ease traffic snarls on main streets unless enforcement also is increased.
Councillor Gord Perks, who voted for the measure, said he was skeptical about the effects.
"This is more about the appearance of action than real action," he said.
Councillor John Parker, one of two committee members to vote against the increased fines, said hiking fines is unlikely to solve gridlock. "If we are really serious about clearing the street, the issue is not the fine, it is what policy we put in place to clear the path," he said.
Councillor David Shiner said the city needs to get serious if it wants to solve the problem of drivers who stop and cause traffic to back up. "A fine is nothing but a little talk about maybe you will charge a little more if you can get a parking enforcement officer even out there to give a ticket," he said. "We are not doing it now? How would a higher fine make any difference."
He suggested the city examine the use of "boots" to lock the wheels of offenders, an idea that the committee rejected.
If the fines get the green light from council next month, Councillor Minnan-Wong said it will take between three and nine months before they will take effect.