Parking by Andrew Currie
For anyone who drives in and around Toronto, you know very well that it's not an easy task. All the one-way streets, restricted turns, busy intersections with endless pedestrians, and aggressive drivers make downtown driving an ordeal — and let's not even mention the traffic. However, perhaps what's even more challenging than driving in Toronto is parking here.
Looking for Parking Spots
Finding a parking spot downtown isn't too tricky if you're at a business, institutional, or entertainment area because there are usually parking lots and garages nearby. For example, if you're heading to one of the offices on Bay Street, there's an underground parking garage beneath Nathan Philips Square. If you're shopping at the Eaton Centre, the mall has its own garage (though it's very expensive). You can look up the location and parking rates of city-operated Green P lots and garages, and there are also many privately owned lots and garages around the downtown core.
However, if you're heading somewhere where there isn't a parking lot, or if you don't want to pay the typically expensive fee to park at a garage (sometimes $20 or more depending on where, when, and how long you park), you'll have to do parallel parking on the street. This is where things get challenging. First of all, parallel parking is an acquired skill that requires practice and the guts to hold up honking drivers behind you as you carefully back into a coveted spot. Secondly, Toronto streets have a dizzying amount of parking restrictions that not only confound visitors but also local drivers. Restrictions due to rush hour traffic, school drop-off and pick-up hours, overnight permit-holders-only hours, and snow routes have earned many drivers a ticket from parking enforcers. Thirdly, it seems that every park-able street has different hours and prices for parking, so you never know exactly what to expect when you walk up to the parking meter.
However, the rewards of street parking are worth the risk: often closer to your destination than a parking lot or garage, street parking is also usually cheaper, and in some cases free! To help you find these golden parking opportunities in the city, here's a handy guide that outlines convenient, cheap, and even free parking spots in various downtown neighbourhoods, going from the north end of downtown to the Harbourfront.
Bloor Street by
The Annex is a pretty good neighbourhood for parking. One option is to turn off the major streets and head into the one-way residential streets. One drawback is that overnight street parking is mostly reserved for parking permit holders (usually the people who live on these streets). Another catch is that some streets have a tricky seasonal parking changeover: from April to November, you can park, but not from December to March, or vice versa. To add to the confusion, you have to park on one side of the street from the 1st to 15th of a park-able month, and then switch to the other side from the 16th to the end of the month.
If braving one-way streets isn't your cup of tea, Bloor Street has lots of street parking if you're west of Bathurst Street in the Koreatown area. What's more, there are three Green P lots just north of Bloor in this neighbourhood that charge great rates: $6.50-$7.00 daily maximum from 7:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., then a cheap $3.50-$4.00 for overnight parking from 6:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M.
For visitors heading south of the Annex, like Harbord Village or along Bathurst Street, street parking is also quite easy to find on Harbord, Bathurst, and Spadina Avenue, where there is an extra lane devoted to parking. Another plus is that street parking is free after 9:00 P.M., and you can park overnight on most if not all parts of these streets.
Yonge and Bay, North of College
You can't park on either of these big, busy streets, but the majority of smaller streets that connect these parallel routes have street parking: Irwin Avenue, St. Joseph Street, Breadalbane Street, Grosvenor Street, and Grenville Street. Also, Breadalbane Street has free parking after 9:00 P.M. and allows overnight parking.
Kensington and Chinatown
Kensington by Brie79
Parking in Kensington is somewhat similar to parking on a one-way street in the Annex: spots are available, but overnight restriction and seasonal changeover applies on some streets. Augusta Avenue is an exception in that it allows overnight parking; it's also free parking after 9:00 P.M. Moreover, College Street and Dundas Street West bordering Kensington are great streets for parking, with the same perks as Augusta.
If you're heading to Chinatown, you can use the Kensington parking spots or try to find a spot on Spadina Avenue, where there are dedicated parking lanes. There are also four Green P garages in the area, two in Kensington and two on Dundas Street.
Although there is an underground Green P garage at Yonge-Dundas Square, it's expensive ($2.50 per half hour, $8.00 overnight from 6:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M.). I also strongly advise against parking in the Eaton Centre garage, as it is pricey. Instead, head over to Church Street or the small, semi-hidden Victoria Street between Dundas and Shuter. Church Street in general is great if you need to park near Yonge at any point, though you can't park there during morning and evening rush hours.
Queen Street West
Queen Street West
If you're doing some shopping on Queen Street West, you'll be happy to know that street parking is readily available once you're west of University Avenue. It's also free after 9:00 P.M. and suitable for overnight stay. If you're not having any luck on Queen, many of its connecting side streets offer parking: St. Patrick Street, McCaul Street, and Beverley Street. The catch is you usually can't park overnight there.
King, Adelaide, and Richmond
In the entertainment and financial districts, parking spots on quiet side streets are hard to come by, and Front Street is a write-off. King Street West offers street parking from west of University Avenue to Spadina Avenue, though pulling off parallel parking there requires nerves since traffic is always congested on that strip. Your main street parking opportunities in this area are on Adelaide Street and Richmond Street, both multi-lane, one-way streets. Rush hour restriction applies, though you can park overnight, and free parking begins at midnight.
Harbourfront and Queen's Quay
Unfortunately, street parking is almost non-existent by the lake. If you're heading to the Queen's Quay ferry, go east of Yonge Street to Freeland Street and Cooper Street, where you can park until 7:00 P.M. Otherwise, it's all hotel and private lots and garages.