city of toronto snow removal

Here are the details of Toronto's plan to improve snow removal this year

Residents have long complained about Toronto's insufficient snow removal process and the fact that many are left to their own devices after snowstorms each winter, but the city has created a plan to improve its snow clearing services in 2021. 

During previous winters, city plows only cleared snow from roughly 5,785 km (about 82 per cent) of Toronto's 7,029 km of sidewalks — mostly in the suburbs — but this year an additional 230 km will also receive the service. 

The city says it does not provide mechanical snow clearing if the sidewalk is too narrow for the equipment to fit, if there are obstacles such as utility poles in the way, if there is limited space to store the snow cleared from the sidewalk, or if there are encroachments from private properties (such as retaining walls or fences) that make the sidewalk unable to be navigated by the plows or that could be damaged by sidewalk plows.

In all of these instances, home or business owners are responsible for clearing the snow off the sidewalk, and can be fined $105 plus a $30 surcharge for failing to do so.

But in February of 2020, transportation services began testing eight new smaller pieces of equipment in selected areas across the city where existing contractor's sidewalk plows couldn't operate, and that trial will continue this winter with one additional machine. 

As a result, 230 km of sidewalks in Toronto that have not previously had mechanical snow clearing will receive it this year. 

city of toronto snow removal

The 230 km of additional sidewalks that will receive snow removal this year. Courtesy of City of Toronto

According to a report set to go before Toronto and East York community council on Jan. 12, the sidewalks chosen for the trial were prioritized based on locations where seniors and/or disabled residents had previously requested manual snow removal as a part of the Seniors or Persons with Disabilities Sidewalk Clearing Program.

With the additional 230 km, city plows will clear roughly 6,015 km, or 85.5 per cent, of all sidewalks in Toronto this winter.

The city will also be enhancing inspection of sidewalks that are not cleared by plows and must therefore be shoveled by residents in an effort to keep sidewalks clear to facilitate social distancing this year.

Approximately 10 additional officers will be deployed after storms to provide improved response times for complaints.

During the 2019-2020 winter season, the city received roughly 3,000 complaints related to insufficient snow clearing on sidewalks, resulting in 630 notices and five charges. 

And, to provide more space for residents to get outside this winter, the city will also assist in the maintenance of the Finch Corridor and Gatineau Trails.

The Finch Corridor Trail consists of over 19 km of paved trail that travels from Norfinch Drive in Etobicoke York to Middlefield Road in Scarborough, and the Gatineau Trail consists of 19 km of paved pathways running from Victoria Park East to Military Trail.

This year, city staff will plow and salt the Finch and Gatineau trails as part of their everyday winter maintenance, though a 3-km portion of the Finch Trail, from Willowdale Avenue to Pineway Boulevard, will not be maintained as it has been deemed protected land by Parks, Forestry and Recreation and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority.

Following the trial, city staff will report back to the infrastructure and environment committee in the spring of 2021 on the results of the trial program and options for further consideration, and transportation services will also coordinate with Parks, Forestry and Recreation to provide recommendations on enhanced levels of winter maintenance service within parks throughout the city.

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