From coffee cups to fake badges, how some people try to avoid parking tickets

Nobody likes the sight of one of those parking tickets slapped to the windshield of their car. But in Canada, it happens millions of time a year.

A CBC Marketplace investigation found that drivers in five Canadian cities alone — Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver — were hit with 3.1 million parking tickets last year, worth a staggering $171 million.

While the majority of tickets issued go to drivers who’ve broken the rules, it still doesn’t ease the sting of having to pay a hefty fine for neglecting to feed the meter.

  • Watch the full Marketplace investigation on parking tickets online

So it’s no wonder that some frustrated drivers turn to tricks in the hopes of keeping the ticket officers at bay.

To be clear, Marketplace doesn’t endorse these methods; drivers should pay for parking, and fight it when it’s unfair. But here’s a look at how some people try to outsmart the system.

Blocking plates

Steve, who asked us not to use his full name, says he had pulled over for less than 10 seconds to pick up his wife at her downtown Calgary office when one of the city’s parking ticket “spy cars” drove by and snapped a picture of his licence plate.

Two weeks later, a $40 ticket showed up in the mail. He tried to explain the situation to the Calgary Parking Authority, he says, but got nowhere.

He was told he’d have to go to court to fight it, he says. Instead he paid it, deciding it wasn’t worth the cost of losing a day’s work.

No parking

Marketplace, of course, doesn’t endorse these methods. (CBC)

But Steve says he hasn’t forgotten the incident. Now, sometimes, if he’s pulling over to take a call or picking up his wife, he has a few simple ways of fooling Calgary’s camera cars.

He lowers the tailgate on his pickup truck or puts a bottle of windshield washer fluid on his bumper to partially shield his plate.

Steve isn’t alone.

Adrian Mrdeza, a spokesperson for the Calgary Parking Authority, says its camera cars have snapped pictures of Tim Hortons cups shielding licence plates, fake plates covering real ones and even rude messages directed at parking authorities.

These tricks are not a wise idea, she says, as parking enforcement officers can report offenders and still tag them the traditional way — by slapping a ticket on the windshield.

Sorry, I’m working

In Toronto, CBC News has previously reported on police officers who have their own way of fending off parking officials.

In the past, some Toronto cops have been spotted parking their personal vehicles on busy streets while on so-called “paid duty” assignments — duties picked up outside an officer’s regular shift, such as directing traffic during road repairs or providing security at public or private events. They make $68 an hour for these activities.

To avoid getting tagged, the officers hung neon safety vests over passenger seats, or left walkie-talkies or notepads on their dashboard. These were apparent but not-so-subtle hints for parking authorities not to tag them.

And it worked for years. But police brass have since warned officers they could face disciplinary action if caught doing this.

Faking it, eBay style

At the University of Toronto, campus police often had trouble finding cheap, legal parking.

So some officers just started parking on the city street right outside their station. In order to discourage tickets, they would put campus police crests on their dashboards.

It worked so well, students started doing it, discovering that for just a few dollars, anyone can buy a U of T police crest on eBay.

The university has since told CBC News it has cracked down on the problem.

You told us

We asked you for some of your tips to avoid getting ticketed. Here’s what you said:

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