Susan Quirk has heard them all.
I’m only going to be five minutes. I’m in a hurry. I’ve got an appointment. Nobody is using it.
“There are a million excuses people use,” she says of the frustration of finding someone without a permit parked in an accessible parking space. “A lot of people just view it as premium parking, but there’s a legal definition you have to meet to get a permit.”
The Georgetown woman has a chronic, progressive condition that affects her mobility. She wants to continue to be active – she tries to get out every day – however, the more she walks, the more pain it causes her. Because of that, having accessible parking often makes it possible for her to run errands, shop or go to appointments.
All too often, though, Quirk arrives to find a car without a permit in an accessible parking spot. In those cases, she has called the Town of Halton Hills bylaw department. Most times, the person in the spot has left before a bylaw officer arrives.
Susie Spry, manager of enforcement services for the Town of Halton Hills, said the Town will send a bylaw officer if a complaint is received, but how quickly they arrive often depends on where the officer is at that time.
Even then, the Town can’t always enforce the bylaw. In order to issue a ticket on private property, the Town needs the property owner’s permission. Halton Hills does have a standing agreement with the Georgetown Market Place that allows it to enforce the bylaw on mall property.
Halton Hills has tried to use the $350 fine as a deterrent. Spry said it is by far, the largest parking fine, with the next highest being $100 for parking in a fire route.
In 2022, the Town issued only 13 tickets for parking in an accessible parking space. That jumped to 61 in 2023, though nearly half that total came on one day. Toronto Premium Outlet authorized a one-day blitz on Black Friday, with 29 tickets being issued that day.
Quirk would like to see more blitzes like that. She said In other municipalities blitzes have found people with expired or fake permits or using a permit belonging to a family member. The Town says it doesn’t have the staff to do blitzes regularly, even after almost doubling the time enforcement officers are on duty from 80 hours per week to 150.
Spry said the Town’s enforcement is still complaint based. Anyone encountering a car without a permit in an accessible parking spot can call Carla Bonacci at 905-873-2600, ext. 3030 and a bylaw officer will be sent.
Spry said a review is underway to ensure all accessible spots on municipal property are properly signed. Quirk said the Town has done a good job increasing the number of spaces, as it did at the Gellert Community Centre where three accessible spots were added.
Despite the additional spots, Quirk said she now carefully plans her outings. For instance, if she’s going to the library, she arrives 10-15 minutes before it opens to ensure she can find parking. That’s not possible everywhere, and Quirk has often arrived at her destination, found a vehicle without a permit in the accessible parking space and has turned around and gone home.
Quirk, a retired nurse, says the biggest problem remains the people who choose to park in accessible spots, or who park so close to them that it’s not possible to remove a walker or scooter from a vehicle.
Quirk said she would prefer to not need accessible parking, but it has become a fact of life.
“It’s not something I wanted. I resisted getting (a permit) for five or 10 years,” she said. “And if you need it and can’t use it, it severely impacts you.”