Toronto is still having a problem digging itself out of the mess left from last Monday’s massive snow storm -- let alone the snow that blanketed the city yesterday afternoon and evening.
Last week’s mega storm dumped 55 cm on Toronto, resulting in a two-day school closure issued by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the temporary closure of the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway, abandoned cars and TTC vehicles, and a lot of tired shovelers.
And City crews have been busy trying to remove the snow ever since (yes, still).
But some streets still remain riddled with mounds of slow piled high on sidewalks and roadsides -- making it far from a magical winter wonderland for anyone attempting to walk through.
For example, there are several streets in the Humewood/Cedarvale area (north of St. Clair, west of Bathurst) --Councillor Josh Matlow’s riding -- that have yet to be visited by a City snow plow, which residents say is resulting in chaos on streets. Yesterday morning, Councillor Josh Matlow took to Twitter to address the situation in his ward -- and in other parts of the city, for that matter.
“It’s understandable that the City of Toronto had challenges with snow clearing soon after a massive blizzard. But it’s now been a week, and many local roads across our city haven’t been plowed and too many sidewalks are still impassible. That’s not good enough. I’ve written to Mayor Tory & the GM of Transportation Services requesting an immediate strategy to ensure neighborhoods are cleared, along with a resourced plan to raise service levels going forward. This affects every neighborhood in Toronto -- our city needs to be safe & accessible to all,” tweeted Councillor Matlow.
Twitter users replied with comments and pictures of the unplowed snow in their own neighbourhoods.
“Bathurst Street is still one lane north of Eglinton! It’s insane!” one user replied to his tweet. "I tried to take the baby for a walk over the weekend in the stroller and we were forced on the road on several occasions, which obvi isn't safe. I cant imagine how difficult it is for those with walkers or wheelchairs," tweeted another.
Meanwhile, on Reddit, Toronto residents were quick to chime into a growing banter on the state of Toronto's streets. "So many on and offramps and turning lanes abruptly end in snow. I’m shocked there haven’t been more accidents," wrote one user.
As the online world aptly highlights, aside from the inconvenience and annoyance factor of the abundance of snow, the mounds of it on city streets presents a major, very serious accessibility issue -- especially for strollers, wheelchairs, and senior citizens or others with limited mobility. Not to mention, it also limits accessibility for emergency vehicles. And Toronto residents have clearly had enough, as they collectively asked, "what's taking so long?"
One of the Largest Snow Removal Operations in the City's History
In response to the growing concern, the City held a press conference late yesterday afternoon.
“This is one of the largest snow removal operations in the city’s history and we are making great progress,” said Barbara Gray, the City of Toronto’s general manager of transportation services, to reporters. “The size and scale are so significant.”
According to the City, it began its snow removal operations on designated snow routes and priority routes on Wednesday, January 19 to ensure safety and accessibility and improve traffic and streetcar movement. City officials say that crews have been prioritizing areas that are designated snow routes, priority arterial and local roads, bridges, and roads with streetcar tracks. Snow removal is also underway in School Safety Zones, focusing on areas with limited snow storage, says the City.
The City says it is also prioritizing snow removal from areas with limited storage capacity. Some areas of Toronto (i.e., Scarborough, North York) have wide boulevards and therefore, have the capacity for snow storage on the existing road allowance. On the other hand, arterial roads with the least space and number of lanes are prioritized for snow removal, says the City.
As of January 23 (the latest data), they had removed 17,346 tonnes of snow, completed snow removal on 216 km of roads, and dumped 5,782 loads of snow from across the city.
“We've been at this 24/7 since last Monday -- over a week -- and we have over 1,100 pieces of equipment. That would include salters for roads, plows for roads, and sidewalk machines. So literally it is an army of equipment,” said Vince Sferrazza, director of operations and maintenance at Transportation Services at yesterday’s press conference. “In addition to that, we have close to 1,500 contractor staff and transportation staff on this and it has been a situation where they've been all committed to help out.”
To be fair, this was no small amount of the white stuff. But nine days -- and counting?! Maybe Mel Lastman was on to something after all when he called in the army to shovel out the city back in 1999 (just sayin').
“Just to paint a picture for you, the snow we received in just 15 hours last Monday was more than all the snow we received each January for nearly the past two decades,” said Gray at yesterday’s press conference. Moreover, she said it was also more snow than the combined total from January, February, and March of last year.
And -- with temperatures so (inhumanely) frigid -- there’s been no chance for the piles of snow to melt away on their own. According to the City, snow removal involves dozens of crews using front end-loaders and dump trucks that collect snow and then remove it to the City’s network of five snow storage sites.
Gray said as of Sunday, more than 17,000 tonnes of snow were trucked away to five municipal storage sites from 200 kilometres of roads. She said during the last snow removal operation (March 2019), more than 7,500 tonnes of snow was removed over the course of eight days. Yet, the streets and sidewalks remain incredibly dangerous to navigate.
Perhaps -- in addition to snow removal -- the City should employ emergency personnel on dangerous intersections and roadways to help people simply trying to get from point A to point B.
In the meantime, crews continue to work 24/7. The City says it will take several more days to get through all of the removal.