February 2018 Newsletter
Hello Ward 9 Neighbours,
Every winter my office receives phone calls, emails, Facebook messages and tweets about snow and the conditions of our roadways. From concerns about sidewalk and pathway clearing to windrows and access to public transportation, people are increasingly frustrated with our winter conditions and The City’s ability to effectively remove snow and ice and ease mobility issues.
This winter in particular, I have noticed a significant shift in our conversation about our priorities as a people and the need for a new approach to snow and ice control (SNIC). As we become a more urban and multi-modal city, inadequate snow removal on sidewalks, pathways, crosswalks and in front of bus stops has become unacceptable to many of our Ward 9 neighbours. Today our values not only include having safe roadways for cars (which is undoubtedly critical) but also involve creating a more accessible city that includes better access to walking, cycling and public transportation - even during the frigid winter months.
People often make comments to me about other cities in Canada and their ability to better clear snow on roadways and make sure sidewalks and crosswalks are accessible and safe. It is true that other Canadians cities are doing a better job. In fact, the City of Calgary has one of the lowest budgets for snow and ice removal compared to other major cities in Canada. Currently, The City’s Winter Operations budget is $38.7 million for 2018, an increase of $600,000 from 2017. Montreal’s budget for winter maintenance is $155 million, Toronto’s is $94 million and Edmonton’s is $63 million. Increased capacity to manage snow and ice in Calgary comes at a cost and a shift in our priorities as a city ultimately means a shift in our budget lines.
Calgary’s historic underinvestment in winter maintenance operations is largely due to the climatic realities of being situated on a high-plains desert that has one of the lowest precipitation rates in the country and often undergoes a freeze-and-thaw cycle due to our warm western winds (chinooks). As a result of our unique environmental circumstances, former and current City Councils have made the decision to invest your tax dollars into other city services rather than having the healthy winter maintenance budgets we see in other cities.
Having built a city that for decades has allowed urban sprawl to go largely unchecked has also produced challenges to snow removal, among other things. For example, if we were to place every piece of roadway in Calgary from end-to-end it would be enough to go to Halifax and back, twice! That is a lot roadway to clear every time it snows and it is my belief that is we want to tangibly see a better winter maintenance operation in our city we will need to invest at least another $50 - $60 million per year.
My question to all my Ward 9 neighbours is do you think it is time that the City of Calgary start significantly investing in our Winter Operations budget even if that means trimming in other services that The City provides? I have put together a survey that I am asking all Ward 9 residents to fill out on this subject which can be found at: www.gccarra.ca
Categories: 311, Newsletter, Snow and Ice