Commuters in Whitby, Ont., are voicing their frustration after getting tickets for parking in an overflow lot that was opened across from the local GO Transit station to deal with increased ridership.
Not all the parking spaces in the lot, located outside the Iroquois Park Sports Centre, are designated for GO users. Since last week, bylaw officers for the Town of Whitby have been handing out tickets to drivers who park in spots that are off limits.
But commuters, who are already dealing with a shortage of parking spaces amid a spike in ridership of more than 10 per cent, say there is a lack of proper signage telling them which spots are allowed.
Mangesh Pokharkar found a $27 parking ticket sitting on his windshield last Tuesday.
“I was kind of clueless why I got it,” he said.
Pokharkar works in downtown Toronto and has been travelling from Whitby to Union Station for more than six months.
What he — and numerous other commuters — didn’t realize is that they are only permitted to park in a certain portion of it.
Ron Biswas, who spoke to CBC News along with his son Shaun, narrowly avoided a parking ticket.
“Apparently you can only park on this side,” said Ron Biswas, pointing to the east section of the lot.
Biswas, who commutes to Union Station every day, says he only found out when a parking enforcement officer pointed out the had parked on the wrong side a few weeks ago.
“He didn’t ticket me but gave me a warning. He said he would start ticketing soon,” Biswas said.
Shaun Biswas, a first-year Ryerson student, said lack of parking was an issue even before construction in the GO lot began.
“After 8:30 in the morning, there was usually no parking. It frustrates me a little bit,” he said.
During a walk through the lot Wednesday evening, CBC News noticed at least 12 vehicles with parking tickets. All of them were parked in the west half of the lot.
That’s the mistake Pokharkar says he unknowingly made last week.
‘That signs are hard to see,” said Pokharkar, who says, pointing to a small sign on a lamp post at the back of the lot.
He says he plans to fight the ticket.
Complaints from Iroquois Park users
The Town of Whitby has a longstanding arrangement with Metrolinx to lease 300 of the 705 parking spots at Iroquois Park Sports Centre for GO users.
Erin Mikaluk, a spokesperson for the town, says it noticed an increase in complaints from those who frequent Iroquois Park Sports Centre about a month and a half ago.
Signage was put up by the entrance of the north portion of the lot telling GO users they can’t park there. Staff have also been frequenting the south portion of the lot, educating users on which side they can park in.
Mikaluk says handing out parking tickets was a last resort, adding staff will be putting up more signage soon to educate commuters.
Staff are also attaching written warnings the size of business cards to vehicles advising drivers to call GO Transit if they have questions.
According to numbers from Metrolinx, average weekday ridership on the Lakeshore East line, where the Whitby GO station is situated, went up by 10.7 per cent between Sept. 2018 and Sept. 2019.
“A little over a year ago, we increased service. It went from two trains an hour to four,” said Nitish Bissonauth, a spokesperson for Metrolinx.
“As you increase ridership service, you increase riders.”
Bissonauth says Metrolinx understands parking is an issue.
He says while he can’t share any details, Metrolinx is in “the early phases of planning long-term solutions for Whitby,” adding that in the meantime GO users are encouraged to explore other options, such as carpooling and using public transit to get to the station.
But Pokharkar says the bus schedule doesn’t work for him and he has no one he can carpool with.
Instead, since receiving the ticket, he’s been driving to the station earlier to try to secure a proper spot.
“There’s no other option.”