Parking in the city is somewhat of an art. Even seasoned Torontonians have to the hunt for the best spot, and downtown parking can be harder to find than a capybara in High Park.
While there’s no easy answer, there are some tips and tools that can make your search easier. Here are our top suggestions:
Parking in the city can be frustrating. If you’re driving, make sure to build in time to find parking and allocate a budget, because depending on when and where in the city that you’re headed, you may be in for some high rates—especially on big game days or during summer events.
Know What to Look For
Spotting an opening for parking can be luck of the draw, but heading off the main drag and exploring side streets or being willing to walk a bit to your destination can help limit your search time.
Many streets downtown have free street parking after 9 pm on weekdays and Sundays after 1 pm. In these cases, the City of Toronto bylaw allows free parking for up to three hours, however that limit will only be enforced if a resident calls and complains about the vehicle. On public roads with no signs posted, the same bylaw applies.
If you aren’t having any luck with street parking, keep an eye out for circular green signs with a “P” in the middle. These indicate Toronto Parking Authority’s 160 municipal lots—garages and surface lots—which can also be searched using their website and app (see below).
If you land an open spot, make sure to read the signs carefully to make sure you’re in the clear. Parking downtown is enforced, and nothing ruins an evening quite like a ticket.
Who to Call
If you’ve found a spot but aren’t sure if you’ve spot is safe or not, the Toronto Police have a very friendly parking enforcement customer service line that can help clear up any confusion. Call 416-808-2222 (24 hours a day, seven days a week).
Sites and Apps to Use
Where there are issues, there are websites, and Toronto has a number of platforms designed to help you find a parking spot without breaking the bank. The best tool to find parking easily is to use the Toronto Parking Authority’s Green P website and app. The app, available for Apple and Android, not only allows users to find parking lots and/or on-street spaces, but also allows you to pay, track and extend your parking directly from your smartphone—meaning that if you running late, you don’t have to rush sprint out to the car in order to feed the meter.
Parkopedia and Toronto Parking Finder also provide interactive maps of the city with parking prices, that can be searched based on the price range and duration that you need your parking spot—but both sites will only show parking for the downtown core.
Ask for the Hidden Gems
Tucked in among the tall buildings and pricey parking lots, there are a parking garages that have reasonable rates for downtown, such as the centrally located lots around Ryerson University, many of which are a flat rate of $5 to $8 after 5 pm. Nathan Phillips Square also has overnight parking (6 pm to 7 am) for a flat rate of $6 and weekend and holiday parking for $8.
If you’re visiting someone in the city, ask for suggestions on where to park in their area or if their condo or apartment building has visitor parking at a reasonable rate.
Get a Permit
If you’re planning on partying until the wee hours of the morning and need to ditch your car for the night, consider getting a parking permit. These permits can be purchased online through the City of Toronto’s website. Visitors are able to get permits covering one day ($9), two days ($13.51), or a full week ($21.09, plus tax)—as long as the area is designated for permit parking and spaces are available. The application for visitor parking can be filled out online and once completed, all you need to do is print it out and place it in your windshield.
Park Before You Come
If all this is sounding more complicated than Drake’s feelings about Rihanna, then consider leaving the car behind when you come into the city. If you’re coming in from out of town, GO stations have free parking for up to 48 hours and if you are traveling with a group, GO sells unlimited-ride day passes (although only two people in the group may be over the age of 18). TTC also has unlimited-ride day passes ($12) available and family passes for the same price.