Parking ticket and a tow job reveal need for efficiency review at city hall

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Observing the collection of towing fines appears to be someone's job at the City of Vancouver? Why can't they spice up their day by also collecting the parking ticket fines as well?

In the past, I have offered some tips to Vancouver's new hand-picked City Manager regarding how she can save money at City Hall. For the most part, she has ignored them. Not a big surprise there. Regardless, I have one additional real life example that was brought to my attention that she may want to address in the near future.

Yesterday, I had to attend meetings downtown and a colleague of mine left the restaurant mid- afternoon, only to find that his car had disappeared from its Yaletown parking spot. At first we thought the car might have been stolen, then we realized he had parked it in a commercial zone...a definite no no.

He asked me where I should call to get the car back and I struggled to locate a phone number on one of the City-owned signs listing the tow company operators. That's when I remembered that 311 was working (you'd never know that because the City's communications department doesn't want you to know about it) and they kindly helped him locate the vehicle within seconds. Boy, 311 is a great service isn't it!

At that point we had to part ways and head in different directions, but I did get a call from him later in the day. He asked me a very interesting question. "Why can't you pay your city parking ticket at the same place you pay your towing fee?" Hmmm...a good question.

I simply didn't have an answer. In fact, I thought you could pay your ticket at the same time. So I told him it was likely because there was no one from the City there to "officially" collect the money. After all, there are collective agreements in place that would likely require the ticket fine collector be a CUPE member, not someone working for Johnny's Towing.

Then he told me there actually was a City of Vancouver employee on site and when he asked her why he couldn't pay both tickets at the same time in order to streamline the process, she replied "I'm only here to observe the process on behalf of the City."

There were over a dozen people standing in line waiting to get their cars back from the pound when my colleague paid his towing fee and was advised by the towing company attendant who collected his money "this is the number one question people ask us here. Why can't I pay both my fine and the towing fee at the same time."

In the grand scheme of things we've written about at, this issue may seem trivial. But if you multiply the cost of this type of inefficiency throughout the whole system, it can add up quickly.

As my colleague said half jokingly, "I just want to pay the fines and get it over with. I don't want to have the pain linger on for days as I figure out where to send the cash to the City."

For what it's worth, I hope that Ms. Ballem, Vancouver's newish City Manager looks at changing this ridiculous policy and streamlines a process that probably annoys hundreds of people a week for absolutely no good reason. If she does, she'll not only get kudos from me, she'll have thousands of people who'll be just a tad happier having to fork over their hard earned cash to the City.


"I just want to pay the fines and get it over with. I don't want to have the pain linger on for days as I figure out where to send the cash to the City."

Isn't the address right on the ticket? If not...

- Googles 'paying parking tickets vancouver' - 0.31 seconds later...

You watch too much Parking Wars. In Philly the city tickets, tows, and runs the impound lot. Here in Van the city tickets and then a private company handles the towing and impound. You should talk about the options the city gives people to pay there fines. You can pay through the mail, internet, in person and you get 34 days to pay the reduced fine before it doubles. If the city began to collect fines at the impound lot the city would have to have a city worker at the lot 24/7 it would be another line up as well as the line up to get your carback. And what happens when you want to dispute the tic? Do you pay the fine upfront and hope to win in court to get the fine back. The Vancouver system is pretty user friendly compared to other jurisdictions.

If you want to dispute the fine, why don't you simply just pay the towing portion? All I'm saying is you should have an option to pay both at the same time. That only seems like basic customer service?

As for options, I agree there are many. But the one option that a lot of customers want, which is to pay the ticket at the same time as the towing fee, isn't available.

Thanks for your feedback!

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