Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cities look west, for snow sense

A message from Ryan Jestin, Director of Roads about The City of Calgary’s snow removal efforts:

In light of recent misinformation regarding The City of Calgary’s approach to snow and ice control, we feel it is important to articulate how the corporation has long been on the leading edge of issues related to this service. We are, in fact, a respected industry leader among North American winter cities.

We regularly review our policies and practices and make adjustments as required, taking into account the need to balance the needs of our citizens with financial realities.

The findings of an independent auditor from KPMG has concluded as recently as this spring that The City of Calgary does, indeed, provide excellent value for the money spent and service received compared to other budgets, climates and geography.

Therefore, I must take exception to several comments in a local media column citing Ottawa and Montreal as examples of cities with more effective parking policies. In reality, their circumstances, policies and resourcing are far different than Calgary’s.

The City of Ottawa has winter overnight parking regulations in effect November 15 to April 1. People cannot park on streets between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. when a snow accumulation of seven cm or more is forecast by Environment Canada in the Ottawa area. This includes any forecast for a range of snow of more than seven cms, for example 5 to 10 cm. Vehicles that remain parked on the street during an overnight parking restriction will be ticketed. On-street parking permit holders are exempt from this restriction.

The column also compares Calgary’s snow clearing practices to those of the City of Montreal. That is also an unfair comparison based on several factors.

The City of Montreal has varying parking restrictions in place depending on how much snow is falling and whether crews are clearing streets or removing snow that has accumulated over several storms.

Calgary’s budget this year is $35 million compared to Montreal’s budget of $145 million. Calgary clears more than 5,200 kms of roadway and 237 kms of sidewalks and paths with 100 pieces of equipment while Montreal clears 4,100 kms of roadway and 6,100 kms of sidewalks with a fleet of 1,000 vehicles. In Montreal, 50 per cent of snow clearing work is done by city employees and 50 per cent is by private contractors. And in Montreal, snow clearing is augmented by snow removal about five times a year.

Montreal also has 1.6 million residents, 1.3 million vehicles on the streets every day and 500,000 people passing through downtown every day. Ottawa has 917,500 residents, just over 500,000 registered vehicles. Calgary has 1.2 million residents, 850,000 vehicles on our streets and 150,000 people living or working downtown.

The City of Calgary regularly consults with industry experts. We’ve researched our operations, conducted surveys, and made significant improvements where required.

We also consult Calgarians regularly. In a telephone survey conducted in January and February, 2011, almost half of respondents said traveling on Calgary roads was improved over previous years. About 80 per cent of respondents were satisfied with driving or being in a vehicle on Calgary roads as a result of snow and ice control services. In addition, three-quarters of respondents felt travel times during morning rush hour were reasonable after winter snow storms, even though they typically perceived travel times to double compared to times when there are no winter conditions. Almost one in ten respondents would have difficulty finding a parking space on residential streets if parking restrictions were imposed on one side of the street during implementation of snow and ice control measures.

I can assure you that with the budget we’ve been allotted and the available manpower and equipment we have at our disposable, Calgary receives excellent value for money when it comes to snow and ice control in the winter months.

Thank you.

Ryan Jestin
Director, Roads
The City of Calgary

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