When/How we Clear Snow & Ice
24-hour patrols continuously check road conditions and staff monitor weather forecasts and pavement temperature. Even before the snow starts to fall, crews swing into action and work continuously until the storm is over. The City has 600 snow plows, 300 sidewalk plows and 200 salt trucks and 1,500 personnel ready to tackle the winter season 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.
The City spends about $90 million annually to deliver the winter operations program.
Levels of Snow Clearing Service
|Road Type||When does the City start salting?||When does the City start plowing?||How much snow is that?||How many hours after the snow stops falling does it take to clear an average storm?|
|Expressways (Don Valley Parkway & Gardiner Expressway)||When snow first accumulates||2.5 cm||A quarter||2-3 hours|
|Major roads, streetcar routes, bus routes, streets with hills and bike lanes||When snow first accumulates||5 cm||A house key||6-8 hours|
|Neighbourhood roads||When snow first accumulates||8 cm||A bank card||14-16 hours|
The City’s levels of service for snow clearing meet or exceed those set by the Province of Ontario for municipalities and road authorities. These levels of service were most recently adopted by Toronto City Council in 2019.
In advance of snow or ice, anti-ice trucks will apply salt brine to expressways, hills and bridges. People who drive should always keep a safe distance behind the brine trucks. You can tell where salt brine has been applied by the grey lines left by the salt on the road surface.
(e.g. DVP & Gardiner)
When the snow begins to stick to the road surface, salt trucks will be sent to Expressways. Salting will continue until there is sufficient accumulated snow to begin plowing. On Expressways, plowing begins after approximately 2.5 to 5 cm of snow has accumulated. Plowing on Expressways takes about two to three hours after the end of the snowfall.
Arterial (Major) Roads and Streetcar Routes
(e.g. Lake Shore Blvd., Finch Ave., Queen St.)
When the snow begins to stick to the road surface, salt trucks are sent to Arterial (major) roads. Salting continues until there is sufficient accumulated snow to being plowing. On Arterial (major) roads, plowing will begin after about 5 cm of snow has accumulated. Plowing on Arterial (major) roads will take approximately 6 to 8 hours after the end of the snowfall.
Collector (major) Roads, Bus Routes and Local Streets with Hills
(e.g. parts of Leslie St., Islington Ave.)
When the snow begins to stick to the road surface, salt trucks are sent to Collector (major) and Local (neighbourhood) roads with hills. Salting continues until there is sufficient accumulated snow to begin plowing. On Collector (major) and Local (neighbourhood) roads with hills, plowing begins after approximately 5 – 8 cm of snow has accumulated. Plowing on Collector (major) roads will take approximately 8 to 10 hours after the end of the snowfall.
All Other Local (Neighbourhood) Streets
When the snow begins to stick to the road surface, salt trucks are sent to Local (neighbourhood) roads. On Local (neighbourhood) roads, plowing begins after approximately 8 cm of snow has accumulated and the snowfall has substantially stopped. Plowing on Local (neighbourhood) roads will take approximately 14 to 16 hours after the end of the snowfall.
Bike lanes and cycle tracks are salted and/or plowed at about the same time as the adjacent road, based on the levels of service. There is also a priority network of bike lanes and cycle tracks in the downtown core that will receive enhanced winter services to improve safety for cyclists
High Pedestrian Sidewalks
Where it is safe for plows to go, sidewalks with high pedestrian volumes will be plowed/salted after 2 cm of snow has accumulated. High pedestrian volume sidewalks are those on arterial roads, school zones transit routes and near accessibility areas.
Low Pedestrian Sidewalks
Where it is safe for plows to go, sidewalks with low pedestrian volumes will be plowed/salted after 2 cm of snow has accumulated. Low pedestrian volume sidewalks are those on collector and local roads. It generally takes approximately 6 hours to clear snow on high volume routes and approximately seven hours on low volume routes. Multiple rounds of sidewalk clearing is often required, particularly in response to large snowfalls.
Bus Stops and Transit Shelter Plowing
Bus stops and transit shelters will generally be plowed within 48 hours after a snowstorm.
Plows with special blades clear the openings of about 262,000 driveways within about two hours of the adjacent neighbourhood road being plowed (remember that it can take up to 16 hours after the snow stops falling for plows to finish clearing neighbourhood roads).
The level of service is to open a three metre wide opening, sufficient for a small car to pass safely. There will also be some residual snow left in the driveway that the home/property owner will need to clear.
Plows that clear ‘windrows’ can only operate where is no on-street parking, road are wide and there are no other obstructions.
- Winter Maintenance Program Review, October 2, 2019
- Confirmation of Levels of Service for Roadway and Roadside Winter Maintenance Services, October 28, 2013
- Confirmation of Levels of Service for Winter Maintenance of Bikeways, Windrow Opening, Sidewalks and AODA Compliance, March 17, 2014