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City and Park Board use past winter to improve snow response and prepare for future

November 9 2017

“While the City has invested more resources and equipment this year, I also strongly encourage all residents to plan ahead to be well prepared for winter weather.”

Snow and ice on the street

Based on the lessons learned over the 2016/2017 winter, the City and Vancouver Park Board have adopted recommendations for improvements to enhance service to residents when snow falls.

“As Mayor, I take snow and ice removal seriously and this year, the City has boosted its snow response plan to ensure we’re as ready as we can be for cold winter weather,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Our priority is ensuring main arterials and pedestrian paths are free of snow and ice, to keep streets clear and safe for all users. While the City has invested more resources and equipment this year, I also strongly encourage all residents to plan ahead to be well prepared for winter weather.”

Improvements include expanded coverage locations, increased salt storage, and prioritized service response times. The City has also added new vehicles to the fleet that are adaptable for use in all seasons. The vehicles will enable crews to access some neighbourhoods and lanes more easily to support garbage and green bin collection.

“Last winter was an exceptional winter,” says Jerry Dobrovolny, General Manager of Engineering Services. “We estimate that it was a once-in-30-year event, but we’ve learned valuable lessons that have allowed us to follow our ethos of continuous improvement to ultimately design higher levels of service for future winter seasons.” 

As part of its operational procedures, the City has a comprehensive snow response plan in place. Crews are on 24 hours a day and work with a meteorologist for tailored Vancouver-specific weather predictions. When snow or freezing temperatures are predicted, engineering crews ensure that streets are salted, brined, or plowed depending on the conditions. 

The Vancouver Park Board has also developed a snow response plan. Snow accumulation is the biggest challenge and Park Board staff will modify priorities based on accumulated snow and risks. 

“The Park Board is always prepared for bad winters and this year our crews have additional snow and ice fighting equipment. We’re committed to clearing snow and ice in a timely manner with a focus on priority areas such as community centres and destination parks,” says Howard Normann, Director of Parks, Vancouver Park Board.

Improvements for this winter

Improvements approved by Council following the 2016/2017 winter:

  • Expanded coverage: Including the addition of pedestrian pathways, arterial corner ramps, bus stops, and priority laneways required to assist in garbage collection. However, as is common with warmer west-coast cities, side streets are not salted or plowed by City crews.
  • Enhanced response capabilities:
    • Using 3-1-1 case study mapping to identify high priority areas and target response zones
    • Training for more drivers so that the City has more crew members to call on for support
    • Deploying mud and snow or all-weather tires to all non-commercial City fleet vehicles (and chains for those with a Gross Vehicle Weight more than 5,000 kg)
    • Expanding the City’s fleet to include vehicles adaptable for use in all seasons to allow better access to some neighbourhood laneways for garbage and green bin collection. Additional equipment will include more dump trucks with ‘winter package’ equipment enabled for snow and ice, and utility vehicles.
  • Priority routes: A three-tier priority route schedule with prioritized response times for each tier
    • Priority 1 – clearance in less than 12 hours
      • Priority 1 emergency routes
      • Pedestrian paths associated with priority 1 bike lanes
    • Priority 2 – clearance in less than 48 hours
      • School routes, collector streets, priority 2 hills and transit routes
      • Pedestrian paths associated with priority 2 bike lanes
    • Priority 3 – clearance in up to 7 days
      • Remaining emergency routes, mini park pathways, arterial sidewalks at bus stops and corner ramps
      • Priority 3 bike lanes and associated pedestrian paths 
  • Increased salt capacity: Updated salt contracts to secure expanded quotas of salt at a lower price, and updates to salt and brine storage capacity, including:
    • Brine storage tank capacity increased from 11,000 to 30,000 gallons
    • Salt storage facilities upgraded to include loading equipment
    • Salt inventory increased from 2,700 to 8,000 tonnes

What you can do

What residents can do to prepare for winter: 

  • Prepare your snow gear early: Make sure you have shovels, snow boots, snow tires, and salt before the first big snowfall. 
  • Know your obligations: All property owners and occupants must clear snow and ice from sidewalks around their property by 10 am the morning after a snowfall, seven days a week. Failure to remove snow and ice may result in fines.
  • Get winter tires: If you drive through the winter, consider getting tires with the three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol OR the mud and snow symbol, with at least 3.5 mm tread. The Province of BC requires these tires on provincial highways. 
  • Move your car: City crews plow major roads and bus routes. By moving your car to a side street or garage when snow is predicted or after it snows, City crews can better clear arterials for all users. 
  • Avoid driving if you can: Check transit schedules at translink.ca for commuting alternatives. 

Become a Snow Angel and Adopt a Catch Basin

Snow Angel Program

Snow and ice on the sidewalk can be a barrier for many people, particularly seniors and people with mobility challenges. The Snow Angel program helps match volunteers with seniors and people with mobility issues to help clear their sidewalks following a snowfall event.

Sign up to be a snow angel

Adopt a Catch Basin Program

What do “Grate Expectations” “Live Inlet Die” and “Kevin Basin” have in common? They are all the names of recently adopted catch basins throughout Vancouver.

With over 45,000 catch basins in the city, residents help clearing leaves or snow from catch basins in advance of rain can dramatically reduce neighbourhood flooding.

Adopt and share your name on social media with the hashtag #mycatchbasin by November 20, 2017 for a chance to win cool rain gear. 

Adopt a catch basin

Report flooding or snow issues on VanConnect

Connect with us on the go, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the VanConnect App. Use the app to report snow causing flooding, issues with transit shelter access, uncleared sidewalks, and any other street maintenance issues.

Download the app at the AppStore, Google Play, or for Blackberry

Learn more on how to prepare for winter weather