City launches new app to help drivers find cars given 'courtesy tow'

The City of Winnipeg is hoping a new app will make it easier for drivers to find their vehicle once it's been given a "courtesy tow" as part of the annual residential snow clearing program.

City reminds Winnipeggers to move their vehicles after 1st residential parking ban of season

The city launched a new app Saturday night it says will help drivers find their vehicles after they've been towed to nearby areas during snow clearing and residential parking bans. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg is hoping a new app will make it easier for drivers to find their vehicle once it's been given a "courtesy tow" as part of the annual residential snow clearing program. But the message from the city remains the same: be aware of when your area is being plowed and move your vehicle.

Tow truck drivers used the app for the first time during snow clearing efforts Saturday night. When a vehicle needs to be moved out of the way of the snow plows, the tow truck driver presses a button on his phone to log the GPS co-ordinates of the vehicle's location and where it will be towed.
South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes says a new app designed by the city will give vehicle owners notifications for where to find their vehicles if they've been given a courtesy tow. (CBC)

When the driver wants to find their vehicle after it's been moved, they simply call 311 to find out where it is.

"The goal is not to tow the vehicle and give it a ticket, the goal is to open the roads so that the plows can go through and clear the snow off the road," South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes said. "So to do a courtesy tow just to relocate the vehicle and have an easy access so when they call 311, this use of technology simplifies the process."

Blake Karschuk, who drives a snow clearing tractor for Bayview Construction, said he's noticed improvements with the city's notification system in the last couple of years.

Karschukl said vehicles parked in snow clearing zones make the job of tractor operators like him take longer than necessary.

"It's pretty tough to get those big machines around; it's a big machine and the streets aren't that wide," Karschuk said. "It's frustrating. We want to clear the streets to the best of our ability, but when the cars are there we can't do a perfect job, that's for sure."

Whatever improvements Karschuk has noticed with the city's system, he thinks it still needs some work.

"This is a winter city; we've always had snow here so people need to be informed," he said. "The city could probably do a bit better job of letting everyone know, broadcasting when their zone is going to be plowed, but people have to take the responsibility for themselves too. When there's a big snowfall, the streets are going to need to be plowed."

Lukes, who is also the chair of the city's infrastructure renewal and public works committee, admitted that for even the most conscientious Winnipeggers, it isn't as clear or pain-free a process as it should be.

"The city clearly needs to and will be doing a better job of communicating knowing the zone, because this is a winter city," she said. "It's going to happen again and again. It's going to be improved. There's a lot of room for improvement."

Lukes confirmed vehicle owners were both towed and ticketed overnight Saturday during the first "Know Your Zone" sweep of the year. She was unable to provide details about how many tickets were issued or how many cars were towed.

You can find your zone on the city's website or by calling 311.


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