Discussing public snow removal in Winnipeg is always a heated topic. Everyone has a different idea of how streets should be cleared and big money is on the line, so it’s always an easy pot for Winnipeg media to stir up to grab some attention. Lately the debate has been over whether private or public snow removal is better. Hero knows a little about snow removal so here’s our take.
Hero thinks the current snow removal quality in Winnipeg is respectable. For the most part snow is cleared from roads on time, traction is added to the roads and a reasonable scrape is done to the streets. We need to remember we live in Winnipeg which means snow and ice are part of life. Expecting an Arizona road to drive on after a blizzard simply isn’t a reasonable expectation. Hero thinks the biggest downfall to Winnipeg’s snow removal is on the waste of resources that go into street clearing efforts.
Take residential street clearing for example. Reports estimated the Feb 18, 2015 residential snow removal to cost between $6-8M. This was the first time snow was cleared in the 2014-2015 winter and it was more than a week after the last major storm. By the time crews get to plowing Winnipeg’s streets, the snow was already packed into ice which defeats the sole point in plowing it.
The reason we plow streets is so they are passable by vehicle. When snow is packed into ice they are completely passable to all vehicles negating the benefit of snow clearing. In fact, Manitoba has highways up north that are built entirely of ice to get from point A to B so this is not a new concept. If residential snow clearing is to have benefit, it should be done immediately after a snowfall while the snow is loose and causing vehicles to get stuck. This alternative would be far too expensive for Winnipeg’s budget so we don’t believe it to be realistic.
There are only 2 downfalls to driving on hard packed snow and ice on residential Winnipeg streets. First is traction, which can be solved very quickly and cheaply by applying sand to roadways. The second is the packed Winnipeg streets can become bumpy. However, we would argue that they are nowhere near as bumpy as Winnipeg’s streets in the summer or spring when they are littered with potholes.
Hero would argue that refraining from plowing residential streets at all, is a better alternative than plowing the way Winnipeg currently does, when cost is factored in. This is because we currently pay an exorbitant amount of money for a service that barely adds a benefit to the driver.
As a snow removal operator we also know the toll that plowing solid ice vs fluffy loose snow takes on equipment. It’s night and day. Scraping solid ice causes exponentially more breakdowns which adds cost to the taxpayer. Further, all the ice that is scraped up gets piled on the adjacent homeowner’s lawn. This deposits sand and grime on the homeowner’s yard, leaves a pile that takes longer to melt and the same pile of snow reduces visibility for the homeowner backing out of their driveway to see oncoming traffic. We don’t believe piles or banks should be removed, but we also don’t believe in creating these piles unnecessarily.
If you’re not yet convinced that the current method of residential street snow removal doesn’t cut the mustard in Winnipeg, consider this. The clearing in question ended on Feb 22, 2015. As of March 15, all snow in Winnipeg had melted. If the City of Winnipeg would have just waited 3 weeks the snow would have removed itself. The estimated cost of $6-8M could have been money in the taxpayer’s pocket if we would have just let mother nature do the work for us.
The conclusion is that residential street clearing in Winnipeg costs far too much and does far too little in terms of real benefit to the driver, in the current capacity it is offered. We’ve suggested one way to achieve a low cost and high quality service to the driver, but there are lots of other ways this can be achieved.
Because this is such a big topic part 2 will cover the other topics like the downfalls of the current contract bidding process.