Vancouver defends snow removal strategy after first round of winter storms

Vancouver has already been hit by multiple snowfalls this year, testing the city’s snow removal response as residents try to navigate snow-covered roads and stranded buses to where they need to go.

City of Vancouver street operations manager Amy Sidwell told Daily Hive staff are constantly monitoring weather conditions to keep roads and sidewalks as clear as possible.

“One of the peculiarities of the Lower Mainland as a whole is that the temperature is not systematically below freezing,” Sidwell said. “It goes above and below zero a bit. So it creates a lot of different conditions that can change quite quickly. “

When the forecast calls for sub-zero temperatures, the city sends trucks of salt and brine to create a protective layer on the road to melt snow and ice. This is what happened on Wednesday, but many buses still got stuck on the Granville Bridge and some cars without winter tires had to be pushed into hills.

When rain is forecast before a frost, the salt and brine will be washed away, Sidwell said.

Vancouver has around 60 trucks that can be outfitted with plows in the front and salt or brine in the back to help clear the streets once the flakes fly. All 60 trucks may not have come out at the same time due to staffing levels or other constraints, but Sidwell said as many as possible were on the roads this week to clear the way.

A map of Vancouver’s priority roads for snow removal. (City of Vancouver)

Main roads have priority for snow removal to clear a path for ambulances to hospitals and buses carrying passengers. Bridges and viaducts are also clear, as are the main hills. Residential streets are the lowest priority, and sometimes parked cars make them too tight for a plow.

“It makes it more difficult for a plow to pass through these areas, and it would leave a lot of snow on both sides of the street to accumulate and prevent vehicles from exiting parking spaces. “

In addition to snow plows, the City also has smaller vehicles for clearing snow from bike paths and sidewalks, as well as hand-pushed equipment for sidewalks. It runs through 16 of the busiest cycle paths and four main pedestrian areas:

  • False Creek Seawall (from the south side of the Burrard Bridge to the north side)
  • Coal Harbor Seawall (Burrard Street to Alberni Street)
  • Greenway of the strawberry tree
  • Greenway of the central valley

A heavy snow season in 2016-2017 prompted the City to invest in more equipment to clear sidewalks and other areas used by pedestrians. According to the City, its annual snow preparation budget is $ 1.8 million, although the average total spent is $ 5.4 million.

It’s smaller than some other Canadian cities in snowier climates – EdmontonToronto’s is about $ 60 million, Toronto’s is $ 90 million, Ottawa’s is $ 70 million, and Montreal’s is $ 166 million.

But Sidwell believes Vancouver’s snow removal strategy is adequate given its rainy climate. She added that City staff are always on the lookout for new technologies to make their jobs easier and recently equipped the snow plow fleet with GPS technology to better track their progress.

“I think our plans are comparable to those of other cities,” she said. “We’re doing comparisons with other cities across Canada to look at our response times and what our service levels are. “

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