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Calgary snow clearing: By the Numbers

Calgary city council has some pricey decisions ahead about how much it wants to spend on snow and ice control next winter.

Andrew Bissett with the city’s roads business unit, was laying out options for the Transportation and Transit committee on Thursday morning. He said there are many options to pick and chose from, and it will be up to council to decide what is a priority.

He presented numbers showing that after a particularly harsh winter, snow removal is on a lot of Calgarians minds. Requests to 311 for snow related services in the first quarter of 2018 exceeded all of 2017’s requests. In 2017, there were 26,708 requests for service. SInce January 2018, there were 39,350.

  • 65 per cent of people use pathway everyday despite condition
  • 51 per cent think current snow clearing is acceptable
  • 27 per cent of people with mobility issue think current snow clearing is acceptable.

The city has taken flak from residents for not living up to its own expectations. While homeowners are required to clear snow within 24 hours from the sidewalks in front of their house, the city doesn’t do the same for its property.

The cost of doing that would be an additional $3-5 million annually.

Here are just some of the options council will get to weigh:

  • Complete snow clearing of all bus zones within 24 hours – $4.5 – $6.5 million
  • Provide snow and ice clearing to an additional 100km walkway – $0.5 -$1 million
  • Provide snow and ice clearing for all sidewalks in the High Pedestrian Use Network – $9-$14 million
  • Provide snow and ice clearing for all sidewalks, pathways and engineered walkways – $30-$40 million

The above numbers are annual operating costs, and do not include one-time capital costs for added equipment.

To put it in perspective – the city currently budgets around $38 million to clear all its roads. Taking sidewalk clearing to an “Ottawa” level of service where the city clears all sidewalks would more than double the budget, along with a one-time cost of an extra $40 million for capital costs.

“These choices would represent a fundamental shift in the snow and ice control responsibility of the city,” said Bissett.

The committee also heard from over a dozen citizens during the public hearing portion of the meeting. Many seniors and people with disabilities shared their stories of what it is like to navigate the city during the winter.

Lois Kelly, a senior living in Ward 7, said the failure to clear sidewalks puts the physical and mental health of residents at risk.

“Many of my peers called in this winter because windrows became a frightening part of our life,” she said. “One elder said to me, ‘like the nursery rhyme, we all fell down.'”