The City of Toronto has recently concluded a trial to test the use of smaller sidewalk snowplows. The purpose of the trial was to determine whether sidewalk snow clearing could be expanded to include areas of the city that do not currently receive mechanical clearing as part of the City’s winter maintenance program. These areas have previously been excluded because the existing fleet of larger sidewalk plows is unable to safely clear narrow sidewalks with frequent physical obstructions.
The smaller snowplows were tested on nine routes over two winter seasons to observe and document the performance of the machines in a range of snow conditions and street settings. In addition to winter testing on the nine trial routes, a study was conducted to develop an inventory of sidewalk conditions in all areas of the city that do not receive mechanical sidewalk clearing service.
The results of the trial and the inventory study will be presented to the Infrastructure & Environment Committee of City Council for consideration in May 2021.
The City invites residents to learn more about the Sidewalk Snow Clearing Trial by attending one of four Virtual Public Information Events. Each event will include a presentation followed by a Question & Answer session.
Based on guidance from the City’s Chief Medical Officer of Health the information events will be held virtually to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
There are two ways to join the Virtual Public Information Events:
If you have not previously participated in a Webex event hosted by the City, we recommend you take some time to learn about participating in Virtual Engagement Events.
If you are not able to attend one of the virtual events, you can view the presentation and submit questions or comments to City staff by phone, email or mail.
Toronto has about 7,300 km of sidewalk. The City mechanically clears snow and ice from approximately 6,100 km of sidewalk (about 84 per cent) as part of the Winter Maintenance Program.
Under the current program, the City does not provide mechanical sidewalk clearing if:
Currently, seniors or people with disabilities who live in a part of the city without mechanical sidewalk clearing can apply for inclusion in a program that brings City workers to clear their sidewalks manually.
Where sidewalk clearing is not provided by the City, all home, property, and business owners must clear snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of, or adjacent to, their property within 12 hours of the end of a snowfall. The fine for not clearing snow from public property is $105 plus $30 surcharge.
Nine smaller sidewalk plows were purchased by the City to clear approximately 230 km of sidewalk as part of the trial. Each of the smaller plows was assigned two routes, each ranging from 9 km to 15 km of sidewalk. The plows were deployed after 2 cm of snow accumulated, which is the same threshold used to activate the City’s existing fleet of larger sidewalk plows. Because each plow was able to clear one route per day, a full round snow clearing on the trial routes was completed in two days.
The trial routes were designed to capture the most houses possible enrolled in the Seniors or Persons with Disabilities Snow Clearing Program. As a result, 1,443 houses enrolled in the program received mechanical clearing over the past two winter seasons, making the program more efﬁcient while also providing a large enough area to effectively evaluate the equipment.
Although the trial was focused on clearing houses enrolled in the program, plow operators were directed to the entire length of sidewalk on each block, where possible. This continuous snow clearing allowed for better evaluation of the effectiveness of the new plows.
Transportation Services will continue to manually clear sidewalks for seniors or persons with disabilities enrolled in the program whose households were not included in the trial.
A staff report with the results of the sidewalk trial and recommendations from Transportation Services will be presented to the Infrastructure & Environment Committee of City Council on May 25, 2021. If the recommendations are approved by committee, the report will be presented to City Council for consideration.