City Scours for Money to Address Snow Removal Gaps

Council supports plan to inject $2.1 million into this year's budget in order to clear the bus stops a little more quickly

In June, City Council learned about the snow removal plan for the winter. The budget was set to shrink from $72 million in 2022-23 to $63.2 million in 2023-24.

It meant that waiting times for snow removals were going to increase, but in no area was this as severe as the clearing of the areas around bus stops. The average wait times to get the stops cleared would go from 13 days to 22 days.

Despite the City being on course for a $73.8 deficit, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi tasked administration to find ways to address the shortfall when it came to clearing transit stops.

This week, council voted unanimously on a package that would see an injection of a little more than $2.1 million this year, $2.08 million in 2024 and $904,000 in 2025 to improve snow and ice clearing wait times at transit stops. This came just days before the City issued a report that warned that a 7.09 per cent tax increase may be needed for 2024, 2.13 percentage points more than what had originally been forecast. Council has yet to vote on that.

They found the money in the LRT reserve. It’s a Band-Aid solution to be sure, but it shows just how hard it is for the City to find any wiggle room in its already too-tight-for-comfort budget. Council is looking for spare change under the seat cushions — and it’s still not enough.

This measure cuts the wait time on bus stops from 22 days to two weeks.

“It’s dropped to 14 days, which is exponentially better, but, in my opinion, still falls short of the mark,” said Coun. Aaron Paquette. “But this is what we can do with what is available right now.

“In all the things we do, there are some guiding principles that I use, and that’s people come first, no matter what. If we’re not serving those who need it the most, we’re not serving anyone, truly. We are a community.”

Snow and ice at transit stops cause significant challenges to those who need mobility aids and parents who are pushing strollers. Sohi said the City could not go forward with waiting times of greater than three weeks.

“I was quite disappointed to see that there was one area where we’re going to see a significant decline in the service levels, which is clearing snow from bus stops and pathways that connect to bus stops.

“Accessibility to public transit is a core value that I hold dear to my heart. So that is why I have been looking for solutions ever since then.”