TOP EIGHT THINGS RESIDENTS CAN DO TO HELP THE CITY WITH SNOW THIS WINTER
There is much residents can do to help the city keep the roads and sidewalks safe and passable during Old Man Winter. Trevor Tenn, acting transportation services director for the Scarborough district, offered these reminders and asks of residents to do their part as we enter into the cold, snowy winter months.
STOCK UP ON NECESSITIES BEFORE THE STORM HITS
“We want to remind residents, especially seniors, in anticipation of a snowstorm, to ensure they have their pills and whatever they might need (at home). That way, they don’t have to make that emergency trip to the pharmacy. That helps us a lot”
DON’T PARK ON THE STREET
“During a snowfall, whenever possible, keep parked cars off the road to allow plows through.”
TO DRIVE OR NOT TO DRIVE
“If you don’t have to drive in the snow, take public transit.”
Local roads are plowed 14 to 16 hours after the snow has substantially stopped. Residents are asked not to call 311 during a storm to ask when their street will be plowed. During that time, 311 will not take snow service requests. “We activate the plows after eight centimetres of snow and once it has stopped snowing. If it is a very large snowstorm – 15 to 20 cm – we decide whether to go out twice. We evaluate each individual snowstorm.”
DOWNTOWN RESIDENTS MUST SHOVEL THEIR SIDEWALK
Due to much on-street parking, the city does not plow the sidewalks in the downtown core. A city bylaw requires those homeowners to shovel their sidewalk within 12 hours after a snowfall. Seniors or people with disabilities downtown can apply to the city to have their sidewalk plowed. Residents in neighbourhoods in and around Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough, which have wider boulevards, receive the city sidewalk snow clearing service.
DON’T SHOVEL YOUR SNOW ONTO THE ROAD
“There is a bylaw against shoveling your snow onto the road. You can be ticketed.”
HAVE REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS
City plows open windrows (bottoms of driveways near the road) after 8 cm of snowfall, typically an hour or two after the road has been plowed. However, the service is only meant to open up a width of three metres — not the full width of the driveway.
CLEAR CATCH BASINS DURING BREAKS IN COLD WEATHER
“In January, sometimes there is a break in the snow and warmer temperatures. We want to thank residents who shovel around catch basins to help the water drain.”
Tenn is acting director of the city’s transportation services division in Scarborough district responsible for the city’s east-end winter operations.
Tenn chuckled when asked whether he too has heard prophecies this winter that Toronto could see a repeat performance after one of the harshest winters in recent memory last year.
Toronto is confident its fleet of 600 road plows, 300 sidewalk plows and 200 salt trucks will keep the roads and sidewalks safe, he said.
“If they say it’s going to be a bad, cold winter, it doesn’t matter to us. We’re ready to go,” Tenn said. “In cold winters, I get less sleep. In warm winters, I get more sleep.”
The city’s winter operations program includes salting, road, windrow and sidewalk plowing and pothole filling. It is primarily contracted out, Tenn said.
Here is how the city’s winter program goes.
City staff continuously check road conditions and monitor weather forecasts and pavement temperature.
Before a snowstorm, and when black ice is predicted, crews apply a layer of salt brine to hills, bridges and large road bends throughout the city. The salt brine prevents the snow from bonding to the pavement and makes it easier to plow.
“It buys us more time when there is a snowstorm coming,” Tenn said. “It gives us more time to get there with a salt truck.”
All trucks are equipped with a preset salt spread rate as a conservation measure to protect the environment.
When 2.5 to five centimetres has accumulated, plowing begins on expressways; at five centimetres, plowing begins on arterials roads like Kipling, Finch and Sheppard avenues.
When the snow stops, and if accumulation has reached eight centimetres, local road plowing begins.
“One key thing we ask residents to do during a snowstorm is to hold off calling 311,” Tenn said, adding it takes between 14 and 16 hours to clear the roads. “311 will not take any calls at that time.”
Residents should only call 311 to report “urgent” winter-related calls.
Residents can help the city in its snow removal efforts by refraining from driving, taking public transit if possible and keeping parked cars off the streets, Tenn said.
Also, residents who shovel show onto the road could face a fine.
Crews plow windrows (the bottom end of driveways), but only to create a three-metre wide opening. It is not meant to clear the entire width of driveways, Tenn said.
The city mechanically clears snow from sidewalks in neighbourhoods in and around Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough, which have wide boulevards.
Sidewalks are cleared when the snow has stopped and accumulation has reached eight centimetres in November, December and March and five centimetres in January and February.
In the city’s core, due to a multitude of on-street parking, residents and business owners are required to clear their sidewalks of snow within 12 hours after a storm.
Failure to do so could result in a $100 fine plus $25 surcharge.
Downtown property owners who are seniors or disabled may apply to the city to have their sidewalk plowed. Find the application online here http://bit.ly/1wda1ft
Potholes are commonly an outcome of the freeze-thaw cycle. Water on the asphalt freezes and lifts. Vehicles drive on the asphalt and break it.
The city recorded 354,000 potholes between January and November this year. That is nearly double the 182,000 it recorded in the same period in 2013.
“During colder temperatures, we tend to see more potholes and a lot more broken watermains,” Tenn said. “We know the challenging roads for potholes and residents call 311 to report them. The province has a maintenance standard for us to get them filled.”
As of Dec. 1, the city’s winter fleet has been ready to hit the streets, he said.
“We have an army of staff, primarily contractors, but also in-house.”