During the past six months of making grocery and alcohol deliveries around downtown Toronto, Taryn Ellis has racked up an estimated $500 in parking tickets while performing what she considers to be an essential service.
"We try to park right in front of the building, run in, deliver, come back out," said Ellis.
"Sometimes I'll be gone two minutes and I'll have a parking ticket on my car."
Ellis, who started working as a full-time courier in 2019, says her job has become more difficult during the pandemic due to a substantial increase in orders and what she calls the "extreme" enforcement of bylaws by parking officers.
Those challenges are greatest in dense downtown areas like Liberty Village, she explained, where there are few legal parking spaces near the high-rise buildings where she frequently makes deliveries.
Her typical solution has been to park in "no parking" or loading zones, usually leaving a hand-made "out for delivery" sign on the dashboard of her yellow SUV.
Finding a legal parking spot is sometimes not a feasible option, she said, especially when that would mean hauling large orders of groceries or heavy boxes of bottles across multiple blocks.
"I know what I'm doing is wrong," Ellis said. "But it'll just make my job so much easier if the city puts something in [place] about this."
Existing parking zones 'helpful,' but too few, driver says
Toronto bylaws allow delivery and courier vehicles to stop in some areas where normal parking is prohibited. However, drivers are not allowed to leave their vehicles unattended if they go into a building.
WATCH | CBC Toronto reporter Nick Boisvert speaks with delivery drivers frustrated with limited parking
The city operates a limited number of delivery vehicle parking zones where they can park for up to 30 minutes. The city also runs a Courier Delivery Zone pilot project, which allows couriers to park for a certain amount of time, usually 15 or 30 minutes.
"There aren't very many," said Shaniece Sylva, another courier who delivers groceries using her own private vehicle, of the downtown parking zones. "Those are very helpful."
Like Ellis, Sylva said couriers do not have access to legal and convenient parking in many parts of the city.
"Usually, if I am parked illegally it's only because there is no other parking around or I would have to walk quite far to do the delivery," Sylva said.
City exploring changes
Ellis is asking the City of Toronto to consider bylaw changes that would give couriers and delivery people the right to temporarily park in otherwise illegal zones or for the city to establish additional delivery zones in high-traffic areas.
She has started a petition asking the city to make those changes.
The City of Ottawa offers a similar program through its "business identity card permit," which allows the drivers of delivery vehicles to park in certain restricted zones for up to 15 minutes for $130 annually.
Toronto considered a similar program in 2011 with a proposed $600 annual fee, but the plan was never adopted.
Staff with the city are now considering possible changes to delivery and parking regulations as part of Toronto's Freight and Goods Movement Strategy, which seeks to improve safety and efficiency given the increasing number of delivery vehicles on city streets.
"The city has recognized this for years," said Mike Layton, who represents Ward 11, University-Rosedale, one of two city councillors on the Toronto Parking Authority committee.
Layton said the city will have to work with delivery companies to develop new models that consider a range of factors, including commerce, traffic, road safety and the environmental impact of delivery vehicles.
He listed a wider adoption of cargo bikes and the creation of distribution centres from which smaller vehicles could be deployed as possible options. In some neighbourhoods, he said dedicated delivery parking zones could also make sense.
"This past 12 months has just given us a cause to put more of our energies into trying to resolve it sooner rather than later," Layton added.