Montreal snow plan calls for improved parking, more cycling

Montreal wants motorists to respect parking signs this winter so it won't have to tow 5,000 vehicles every time there's a snowstorm.

City encourages motorists to consult Info-Neige to know where they can legally park

A snowplow clears the streets in downtown Montreal on Dec. 30, 2015, the morning after the first major snowstorm of last winter. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

Montreal wants drivers to respect parking signs this winter so it won't have to tow 5,000 vehicles every time there's a snowstorm.

The warning came as part of a larger announcement on winter mobility, which included plans to boost snow removal efficiency and to help increase the number of winter cyclists.

Anie Samson, the executive committee member responsible for snow removal operations, says having to tow vehicles slows the snow-removal process down.

Samson said she wants more Montrealers to download the city's Info-Neige app, which provides real-time tracking of snow-clearing operations, or consult the Info-Neige website for geolocalized information on where you can park and when snow removal work will be done.

She said 150,000 Montrealers have already downloaded the app.

Good news for cyclists

The two-pronged announcement also featured news for cyclists who will have access to another 82 kilometres of all-season bike paths. In total, 429 kilometres of bike paths will be cleared throughout the winter. 

The city councillor responsible for bike safety, Marc-André Gadoury, highlighted the addition of protected paths in the four-season network to further ensure the safety of cyclists. 

Gadoury said he hoped this addition will encourage more Montrealers to bike year-round.

Of the roughly one million cyclists in Montreal, he said an estimated 120,000 bike regularly in the summer.

That number dips significantly in the winter.

"Retention rates are about 12 per cent," Gadoury said of summer cyclists who bike through the winter.

"We're hoping with these measures to boost it to 20 per cent."

Centralized snow removal policy

This coming winter will be the second to see Montreal dictate when its boroughs need to remove snowfall.

Anie Samson encouraged Montrealers to download the Info-Neige app so they would know where to park and stop slowing down clearing operations. (Elysha Enos/CBC)
The centralized policy was announced in 2015 after 3,000 snow removal complaints led to an auditor's report.

Under the policy, all boroughs must respect certain snow removal time frames or face fines.

Last year saw disparities in the time it took the different boroughs to clear snow that the city hopes will be resolved this year.

For example, after the first major snowfall last winter, snow had been cleared from all streets in the borough of Anjou by Jan. 4, but only 51 per cent of streets in Pierrefonds-Roxboro were free of snow by the same date.

Samson admitted there were some issues last year but said they were minor and were being worked on.

What are the time frames?

Borough sidewalks must be cleared when more than 2.5 centimetres of snowfall and sprinkled with salt or gravel when there's more than 2.5 centimetres of snow.

The threshold to begin snow removal is between 10 and 15 centimetres, with a five-centimetre leeway based on the type of precipitation. 

Each borough has 12 hours to begin snow removal operations once the order is given by the city. Boroughs then have 32 hours to complete the removal on main arteries.

Snow must be removed within 96 hours on secondary and local roads when a storm results in 20 centimetres of snow or less.

On Wednesday, the city budget for 2017 revealed the city has set aside $5.8 million less than last year for snow removal. That's a 3.5 per cent drop from what was spent on snow removal in 2015-2016.

The city credits this saving to the centralized management of snow removal contracts.