City hopes to have snow clearing review done by May

The city review of winter operations in Toronto is scheduled to be done by May of this year, with a goal of developing proposals for near-term improvements to be introduced during or before the 2020-2021 winter season.

In a letter to city council obtained by NEWSTALK1010, Transportation Services General Manager also says the review is "timely as we begin preparations for the 2019-2010 winter season and beyond.

The review was called by Mayor John Tory on February 5th and Gray's letter lays out much of what he's looking to see improved:

"- Conducting a comprehensive review of our snow and ice response program including how our current service levels for managing snow and ice on roadways, sidewalks, bike lanes and laneways compare to other cities;
- Looking at harmonizing the service delivery citywide, including expanding the sidewalk clearing program to all areas of the city;
- Improving how we communicate with the public about the ways we manage winter weather with the public —before, during and after a storm. For example, updating our plowTO map to help people track when their road was last serviced, updating our website information, and reviewing our use of social media; and
- Enhancing coordination with partners at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Toronto Police Service to clear vehicles blocking transit faster."

Tory's letter to Gray came after several big storms and tons of complaints to the city about snow clearing efforts.

"During and after last week’s storm, my office alone had more than 150 calls and emails from residents who were dissatisfied with the city's snow removal service," he said. "Many of the complaints focused on sidewalk and windrow clearing."

"We also know many TTC streetcars were stopped by cars parked illegally blocking the vehicle tracks - these foolish and inconsiderate decisions by individual drivers delayed hundreds of riders and is simply unacceptable."

Read Gray's full letter:

Dear Members of Council,

This winter has been a challenging season for residents, councillors offices and staff. We received about a year's worth of snow, ice and rain combined with extreme wind and cold all in about a six-week period. According to Environment Canada, we've topped the 20-year average for annual snowfall (about 105 cm) and more than 130 cm of snow has fallen since November 2018 of which, about 111 cm of snow has fallen since January 1, 2019.

Our goal is to keep our streets and sidewalks safe and passable for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Our crews have been working around the clock to coordinate winter clean-up efforts and respond to residents through 311 service requests.

Toronto has a comprehensive snow and ice response plan. It helps us manage winter storms so that people can continue to travel in the city as safely and efficiently as possible. Last reviewed in 2013, we're currently reviewing the plan again to address the concerns raised by Mayor Tory in his letter to me on February 5, 2019.

This review is timely as we begin preparations for the 2019-20 winter season and beyond. It's important to me and Transportation Services staff and crews that we're providing quality services to the residents and businesses of Toronto. The review will include:

 Conducting a comprehensive review of our snow and ice response program including how our current service levels for managing snow and ice on roadways, sidewalks, bike lanes and laneways compare to other cities;
- Looking at harmonizing the service delivery citywide, including expanding the sidewalk clearing program to all areas of the city;
- Improving how we communicate with the public about the ways we manage winter weather with the public —before, during and after a storm. For example, updating our plowTO map to help people track when their road was last serviced, updating our website information, and reviewing our use of social media; and
- Enhancing coordination with partners at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Toronto Police Service to clear vehicles blocking transit faster.

Our plan is to complete this review by May 2019 so that we can have City Council review any resulting proposals in time for near-term improvements to be introduced during or before the 2020-21 winter
season. I welcome your input on the proposed review – if you feel we're missing something the needs to be included, please don't hesitate to contact my office.

Moving forward, we will also be more proactive in our communications with Councillor offices so that everyone has a clearer understanding of the services the City provides and what residents and businesses need to do to be prepared for winter snow and ice.

On behalf of the team at Transportation Services, I want to extend my appreciation to you for your patience during our winter season.