How Toronto Parking Enforcement wastes taxpayer money – and how to get your ticket cancelled

Toronto Parking Ticket

Ever got a parking ticket within 10 minutes of your ticket expiring? Did you know there is a 10 minute grace period that they never tell you about?

Great, but want to know something else? Toronto Parking Enforcement is wasting your tax dollars, as they themselves have a 5 minute grace period even thought the city itself has a 10 minute grace period.

  • The Toronto Police Service Parking Enforcement Unit observes a 5-minute operational grace period before issuing a parking ticket for a time-limited offence, e.g. overstaying at a parking meter or a pay-and-display parking zone. The grace period is intended to ensure fairness and integrity in parking enforcement operations, and serves both as a courtesy to drivers, and avoids the issue of timing discrepancies between a driver’s watch, a hand-held ticket-writing device, and a meter or pay-and-display machine.
  • The City of Toronto also has an administrative time allowance for time-limited offences including expired parking meters or expired pay-and-display receipts. This is a separate practice from the Toronto Parking Enforcement Unit, and may allow a parking ticket issued within 10 minutes of the expiry of the time-limited period to be cancelled, rather than requiring that drivers request a trial and appear in court in these circumstances.

Honestly, how difficult is it for Parking Enforcement (which is a unit of Toronto Police, whose budget is paid for by the City of Toronto) to have the same grace period of 10 minutes? Apparently too difficult for our local councillors to figure out.

And if you aren’t within the 10 minute grace period, then fight your parking ticket anyway with the TicketCombat’s handy guide. It’s good practice for more serious tickets.

Worst ever inline help?

Came across this gem today.

There is a page. With one of these blue “help” icons. Hovering your mouse over the circle shows the following message.

Worst help prompt
An extremely helpful prompt to the user

Sorry, but this is a shining example of why you need to care about web usability – and why you require people with some knowledge to actually design your interface.

I would have to say that this one sits smack on the bottom of the User Experience Measurement Hierarchy, and does not even reach stage one. Minus one even.

Earth to Toronto Hydro, your process is broken…

I checked my mail this morning, and amongst a collection of bills and a nice letter from the Canada Revenue Agency telling me I have a credit against my corporate payroll account (I.E. they have not applied my cheque properly yet), I received a letter from Toronto Hydro informing of my access details for online billing.

Now I followed their process to request an “activation code” on November 26 (according to agent I spoke to this morning). As you can see, the letter is dated, January 6, 2012 and I received it today – January 18. There is a 5 week delay why exactly?

Now take a look at the Activation Code expiry date.

The ebilling letter I got from Toronto Hydro

Yes, you read it correctly – January 7, 2012 – the day after the letter was printed. Now I’m no genius, but I’m fairly sure that Canada Post working at its most efficient could never get that letter to me in time for it to be useful. Uhm yeah…

The customer service agent I spoke to this morning could not explain this to me. Having informed her the date was not a typo and the code actually did not work, her suggestion was to request another code online, and to “call a few days after to get the code”. What is the point of this? If the letter is anything to go by, the code will have expired the next day. Nor I should not have to call to get a code that may or may not have expired the next day. Why do I even need a code anyway? The whole point of this is to use less paper – why are you mailing me a code? I am able to verify my identity with your contact centre using my account number, name and address. Why can I not do the same on your website?

My suggestions to Toronto Hydro:

  1. If you insist on making customers enter an activation code online, then send it out within a few days of it being requested.
  2. If you are going to send a code, make sure it works. A 1 day expiry is quite frankly ridiculous.
  3. How about a customer friendly URL to enter the activation code. Why not redirect, say, http://www.torontohydro.com/activation/ to that stupid long URL. Do you really expect me to type that in from the letter?
  4. If the process is broken, as it clearly is here, make sure that your contact centre can actually help customers who call in with problems. Why can the lady I spoke to not sign me up for ebilling on the spot? Or request another code for me?

Come on Toronto Hydro, I expect more from the electricity company of Canada’s largest city. What a stupid process.