Saturday 25 January 2014

Snow Removal

I’ve lived in Calgary for most of my adult life. I have on occasion wished that I lived elsewhere, but for the most part I have been happy living and working in Calgary.

There are things that need fixing of course, but all cities have issues of some kind. Most of those issues are due to lack of finances, aging infrastructure and lack of political will. It doesn’t matter where you live, there will always be something that needs attention and right quickly.

The issue that has bothered me from the first winter I lived here is the lack of snow removal. A year or two before Louise and I arrived the city decided to sell off its snow removal equipment and make due with earth movers. To be fair, for the most part the graders do a fair job and when combined with frequent Chinook winds, our streets are often clean of snow and ice. The problem when there is a city that has little snow for a number of years is that the people who are hired to clear snow don’t get any practice and when there is snow(God forbid), they are at a loss about what to do.

We have had a more than normal amount of snow the last three years. Last year there was a fire on the night of a blizzard and the fire trucks couldn’t get past the drifts of snow which allowed five houses to burn to the ground. No loss of life, but that was more luck than anything else. There was such a hue and cry that the city was forced to change the snow removal policy and increase the budget.

It has been a little better, but the difficulty is that the people drawing up the plan have no real experience at clearing snow in an efficient and timely fashion. They should have hired someone from Toronto or Montreal to come out and show them how to clear streets and keep them cleared. I have been behind three graders driving side by side along a highway at 20 KPH. Yes the street was cleared, but not only did it take a long time, but it caused a worse traffic problem than if they hadn’t been there at all. They came up with a seven day snow removal plan which deals with primary streets the first day, then secondary roads and bus routes the second day and then they fan out after that.

The problem this year was that the snow didn’t wait the full seven days before it fell again, so the city had to restart the removal from the beginning. This happened several times in a row and left everything except for the primary streets (downtown) covered in snow that kept getting deeper and deeper. The residential side streets became so bad that cars were getting damaged by what was by now mini glaciers. There have been so many complaints that the city increased the snow removal budget and are doing a one time clearing of the residential streets over the period of a month. That is nice, but all we really wanted is to be able to drive to our homes without tearing off the muffler or putting the wheels out of alignment.

Thankfully, Mother Nature has held off on the snowfall, and today the machines were on our street removing the snow. They were working all day and should be finished sometime tomorrow. Our street isn’t very big.

I guess in a world that is constantly changing, I can look to Calgary’s city snow removal guys and be satisfied that for over thirty years they have been a bunch of incompetent assholes.

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