In case you hadn't noticed, there's been a lot of talk about snow removal lately.
I thought I'd take some time to share some info on the subject and explore a few options. Councillor Kevin O'Toole also has a good post on the subject that you can find here.
To begin: this snow sucks...big time. My fellow Councillors and I, as well as administration, know quite well how terrible the residential roads are. I have dug out my fair share of vehicles, helped pull out a school bus, and have gotten my one ton dually stuck a few times. I admit that even I had a few choice words to say to the City as my bumper was dislocated from my car trying to get out of a snow rut. I get it.
So how did we get here?
The simple answer is that we got an ungodly amount of snow in a very short timespan. 140 cms in 3 weeks to be precise. That's 87% of the average snowfall we get in an ENTIRE winter. That's half of what the snowiest city in Canada (St. John's, Nfld) gets in an ENTIRE winter. That's a heck of a lot of snow by any measure.
What 's been even worse about this particular snowfall is that it has been continuous. This means that we have had to have most of our crews continuously on Priority I and II routes slowing down residential street removal.
What has the City's response been?
We have had every available piece of City equipment working round the clock to clear the roads. Our staff are tirelessly working as long as labour laws allow...and the overtime is stacking up. In addition to City crews, we have contracted as many private companies to help with removal as there are available. If there were more, we'd have them. We're now spending $40,000 a day on contracted services alone.
What's the problem then?
The problem is that there are an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 loads of snow left to be moved and there is just not the capacity in the region to deal with it in a timely fashion.
How can we speed things up?
1. GET PARKED CARS OFF THE STREET!! The thing that slows our crews down the most is having to deal with parked cars. If every street they came to had no parked cars, the whole city could be done in a fraction of the time.
How do we achieve this? The City can tow vehicles that are parked on the street...and they try. However, there has been a several hour wait for tow trucks over the last couple weeks, so it's faster to just ticket the vehicle and plow around it. You can help by ensuring your vehicle is off the road when asked and encouraging your neighbours to do the same.
Some cities put parking bans on entire neighbourhoods over a several day period to make it easier to know when to remove your vehicle. Or some have parking bans on the neighbourhood's garbage day. Some cities even have citywide parking bans (although I highly doubt that'd fly in GP!) Do you think there is a better method than just having a sign out 24 hrs in advance as we do now? Or in other words, why are people still leaving vehicles on the street and what can we do to fix that?
The real root of the problem is that we have many residents who have no place to park but the street. While we could talk for hours about decisions made in the past regarding parking available in new developments, I prefer to look to the future. The City has become much more cognizant of the issue and are now requiring additional parking stalls, particularly in regards to multi-family dwellings and secondary suites. We need to continue this practice.
2. Clearing out the entrance to residents' driveways takes up a considerable amount of time. If we didn't do this during these crazy freak storms, we could get to more streets faster. We could come back to finish them later or have residents responsible for them themselves. Would you be okay with this?
3. We currently don't do snow removal in residential areas at night between 10pm and 7am. Would you be okay with the noise associated with the graders/loaders in the middle of the night if it meant faster snow removal?
This option would be difficult to achieve as we get back to the parking issue. There are more vehicles parked on the road at night and it is harder to contact owners at 2am.
4. As we go into 2015-2018 budget planning, we will have to examine whether additional staff and/or equipment will be needed. This is always a tricky decision as there are some years where we get very little snow and we don't want to have a massive snow removal fleet just sitting around. There's definitely a balance that needs to be found.
So there you have it folks...the lowdown on the snowdown (my new word).
As always, feedback appreciated.