Do you have questions about the snow clearing operations in Mississauga or details around the City’s winter maintenance contract? Scroll down or click on this document to review answers to frequently asked questions on this important topic. My thanks to David Raakman, my executive assistant in the Ward 10 office, for pulling this information together in a handy reference resource for residents. This is a dynamic document and will be edited and updated on a regular basis.
As of January 2022
MISSISSAUGA SNOW CLEARING OPERATIONS
Disclaimer: Every snowstorm is unique in terms of time of day, time of season, duration of snowfall, rate of snowfall, density of precipitation, total accumulation, amount of snow already on the ground, back-to-back storms, and other variables. These differences could and often do have a unique impact on the general responses to the questions posed below.
Frequently Asked Questions
When the City of Mississauga talks about “snow clearing service levels,” what does this mean?
Snow clearing service levels, established by Council, refer to the time by which snow clearing operations are to be complete following a snow event. This time varies depending on the amount of snow. The “clock” does not start ticking until the last snowflake falls in the city. At that point, staff set the service level timing and contractors need to complete operations by that time. For example, if the city receives 15 cm of snow and the snow stops falling at 3 pm on Monday afternoon, crews have until 3 pm on Tuesday (24 hrs) to clear priority roads and until 3 am on Wednesday (36 hrs) to clear secondary (residential) roads. If it starts snowing again, the previously established service level timings are null and void, and a new time will be set when the snow stops.
More online: City of Mississauga Service Levels
What happens when the contractor does not complete snow clearing operations by the time(s) established by the service levels?
This is a very rare occurrence and may be as a result of uncontrollable factors, however, the City would investigate the reason for the missed deadline with the contractor and take any appropriate action according to the contract, that could include financial consequences. There are four snow clearing yards across the city and these yards will help each other out if some are complete and others are still finishing up.
Who can residents call to report missed snow clearing on their street or sidewalk, and when?
Residents can call 311 to report missed snow clearing on their street. Please wait until after the ‘service level’ timing before calling, as a street is truly only “missed” after that point. If it’s difficult to get through to a 311 call centre representative, please feel free to e-mail my office (after the service level timing) and I will be happy to assist. Be sure to include your name and full residential address and the nature of the snow clearing request.
Why did the plow only make one pass down the middle of the street instead of pushing the snow all the way to the curb on both sides?
While this isn’t the expected or typical procedure, it’s possible that after a particularly large snowfall, plows do a single pass in order to quickly make a road accessible for motorists, fully intending to return to the street later to complete the work. This allows more people to access a plowed road more quickly.
What is the generally-accepted distance from the curb that the snow plow operator is aiming for when clearing the road, especially on “deep elbow” curves?
Operators do everything they can to plow to the curb or as close as they can. These “deep elbows” can create issues and could require multiple passes to service them correctly. One factor that may not permit this operation to be successful is having parked vehicles before, in or after the curve. The operator will have to avoid the vehicle and may not be able to clear to the expected standard.
If the bend isn’t properly cleared after the service level timing, residents can send a request through 311 so staff can investigate the issue. Staff will inspect the area and can send either City forces or contracted staff back to properly clear curb to curb.
What is expected of plow operators when clearing snow from intersections onto or near sidewalk access points?
When roads are plowed along streets that are not included in the City’s Priority Sidewalk Program (see questions on “Sidewalks” for details), one of the negative effects are piles of snow that are left at sidewalks leading to intersections. Operators are unable to pick and choose where the snow goes, especially during long storms or back to back events.
Residents can contact 311 to create a service request and staff will investigate the intersection and deploy City forces with a sidewalk machine or blower to clean up.
How can I report excessive salt use at bus stops?
If you see oversalting at a MiWay bus stop, you can report it using the Pingstreet app.
Priority and Secondary Roads
Which roads are “priority” roads and which are “secondary” roads when it comes to snow clearing operations?
The City provides a map that shows which roads fall into which category. Red are primary roads; blue are secondary (or local residential) roads. You can find the map here:
How does the City determine which roads are “priority” and which are secondary”?
Typically, priority roads are those that are travelled by a greater number of motorists. These roads are determined geographically (and sometimes also by operational route patterns).
Why does the City make a distinction between priority and secondary roads? Doesn’t this create an inequity in terms of services?
The City identifies two types of roads so that plow operators will concentrate on the priority roads first, enabling access to a plowed road for a larger number of motorists more quickly. Property owners on secondary roads will only have to travel a short distance to get to a priority road.
Property owners weigh the pros and cons of living on a quieter, less-travelled street, against a slight delay in snow clearing service, among many other variables tied to location.
Why are some priority roads cleared two or three times before a secondary road is even plowed once?
Crews begin clearing primary roads before the snow stops falling just to get a jump start on the snow clearing operations, especially for an expected large snow event. Plows will come by again after the snow stops to clear a primary road again, often before moving on to clearing secondary roads.
Why are the Trelawny-area laneways sometimes cleared well ahead of many secondary roads even though they service far fewer properties?
Snow clearing in the Trelawny laneways is a unique process. Special equipment is needed, and the laneways are so narrow that the snow must be removed with front-end loaders and dump trucks rather than plowed to the side, like most other streets. This work is done through a separate contract and usually the removal begins right when the snow stops, while plows on other streets are continuing to plow primary roads or just shifting over to secondaries. There are 144 laneways in the Trelawny community, so clearing all of them from start to finish does take significant time and effort.
Priority and Secondary Sidewalks
Which sidewalks are “priority” sidewalks and which are “secondary” sidewalks when it comes to snow clearing operations?
Priority sidewalks are typically those along bus routes and school routes. The City provides a map that shows which sidewalks are categorized as priority (red) and are cleared by a sidewalk plow as part of the City’s snow clearing contract. You can find the map here: https://mississauga.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=112cfe5f21b7436c981bccb7d67ac952
Why does the City of Mississauga only clear priority sidewalks and not all sidewalks?
The City clears priority sidewalks to ensure pedestrians are able to safely access schools, bus stops, hospitals, etc.
The City investigated the cost of adding snow clearing for all public sidewalks into its contract. The cost was about $2.4 million annually (in 2020). Council opted not to increase the service at this time based on public feedback unsupportive of paying higher taxes coupled with COVID-19 related budget pressures on other programs and services.
You can read the report here: https://www7.mississauga.ca/documents/committees/council/2020/2020_07_22_Council_Agenda.pdf#page=61
Why is there no City of Mississauga bylaw requiring property owners on secondary routes to clear their sidewalk?
The City investigated options around how to most effectively and efficiently address the snow clearing of secondary sidewalks. Establishing a bylaw is difficult to enforce and creates an inequity, as some properties may have sidewalks while those across the street may not. Also, the sidewalk is public infrastructure located on city property, introducing issues around responsibility and liability.
To date, the City has employed a “Be A Good Neighbour” educational campaign to encourage – but not force – property owners to clear the sidewalk adjacent to their property. In most cases (but not all), this has been an effective approach.
What recourse is there for residents who are concerned about those who do not clear the sidewalk adjacent to their property?
Residents can call 311 to advise the City of an uncleared sidewalk and staff will attempt to contact the property owner to educate them about the important impact a clear path can have for the neighbourhood. At the same time, it may be discovered that there are valid reasons (health, age, etc.) that inhibit a resident’s ability to clear their walk and other solutions may be considered.
What is a “windrow?”
A windrow is the pile of snow left at the bottom of a driveway after a plow clears the road. In Mississauga, snow is cleared – not removed – from the road. The plow pushes the snow from the middle of the road to the edge, along the curb and – unfortunately – in front of driveways.
Why does the plow have to clear the street multiple times, leaving a windrow each time, and forcing residents to clear this heavy pile of snow from the end of their driveway multiple times?
Plowing operations typically get underway before the snow stops falling, especially for larger snow events. This means a plow could make several passes along a street, creating a windrow each time. If vehicles are parked on the street during an initial pass, a plow might return later on to clear the street again, creating another windrow. Making multiple passes is preferred to waiting until the snow stops in order to do only one pass because the latter option would only further delay the entire snow clearing process and frustrate residents who want to – or need to – get to their destination by a certain time.
Why does the plow not do a better job clearing the snow from the street and moving it so that it isn’t in front of residential driveways?
Plow operators have to meet the minimum standards for proper snow clearing of roads while also completing the work within a set period of time. They are operating large pieces of equipment, sometimes in tight spaces. They are often working late at night and/or for many consecutive hours. They need to do their work as effectively and efficiently as possible taking the time to do a proper job, but not too much time that they don’t get the job done. They are not intentionally causing inconvenience or aggravation for property owners by leaving massive windrows behind – this is simply the result of the plowing operations.
Why hasn’t the City of Mississauga enhanced its service by clearing all windrows from residential properties?
The City investigated the cost of adding windrow clearing from all residential properties to its winter maintenance contract. The cost was $10.4 million annually (in 2020), not including the purchase of property to store the additional equipment. Council opted not to increase the service largely based on public feedback not in favour of paying higher taxes but also because of the inherit inequities of doing so. Those living in condominiums or apartments would not appreciate paying for windrow removal of private residential driveways.
You can read the report here: https://www7.mississauga.ca/documents/committees/council/2020/2020_07_22_Council_Agenda.pdf#page=61
Instead, the City provides a windrow snow clearing program that older adults and those with physical challenges can apply for.
What is the “Driveway Windrow Snow Clearing Program” offered by the City each year?
The City offers a driveway windrow clearing program for residents 65 years and older, and for persons with disabilities. The program is available to 300 participants on a first come, first served basis. The program costs $200, but is free for residents who meet financial assistance criteria. Applications are open from mid-August to early November every year for the upcoming winter season.
More online: Driveway Windrow Snow Clearing Program
What parking regulations are impacted during and immediately following a snow event?
Normally, vehicles are permitted to park on the street for a maximum of 5 hours between 6 am and 2 am daily. In addition, residents receiving overnight guests (or doing minor driveway repairs) can apply for a temporary permit to park a vehicle on the street for up to five days. Both of these bylaws are suspended during snow clearing operations.
Why does the City not allow on-street parking during snow clearing operations?
Vehicles parked on the road impede the ability of the plow operator to efficiently clear the snow from the middle of the road to the edge. In cases where vehicles are parked opposite each other on the road, the plows cannot pass between them, leaving the remainder of that street unplowed. This is inconvenient and aggravating for people who live there, and a waste of time and money as a plow would need to return later on to clear the road.
How do residents know when temporary on-street parking permits have been suspended?
The City uses two main channels to alert residents to the suspension of on-street parking permissions: its web site and its Twitter feed. In addition, Councillors will often post a notification to their social media channels when they are advised by staff. A good rule of thumb to go by: if it is snowing or has snowed recently, chances are these permits are suspended and vehicles must be removed from the street.
How is on-street parking during a snow event enforced?
The City’s parking enforcement officers work with plow operators to particularly focus on occasions when a plow cannot proceed down a street due to parked vehicles on both sides. A ticket is issued to the offending vehicle(s) and the parking officer can call a tow truck to tow the vehicle to an impound yard.
Who can I call to report a vehicle parked on the street during snow clearing operations?
If you feel comfortable doing so, the best and most effective approach is to speak to the owner of the vehicle. Alternatively, you can call 311 to report an illegally parked car, or send an e-mail to email@example.com. Be sure to provide as much information as possible, including the license plate, the street name and nearest intersecting street name, and that the vehicle is impeding the snow plow. Response times are often delayed during snow events; the quickest way to address this is to speak with the owner, kindly asking them to remove it so the plow can easily clear the street for you, them and all your neighbours.
Why does the sidewalk plow damage my sod?
Sidewalk plow operators do their best to plow priority sidewalks within the width of the sidewalk. On occasion, due to parked cars, utilities or other encroachments, or due to human error, the plow strays from the hard surface slightly and damages the adjacent sod. Sod damage is more likely to occur early or late in the winter season, before the ground freezes or after it thaws.
Who can I call to report damage to my sod by a sidewalk plow?
The soft landscaping adjacent to the sidewalk is City property and the City’s contractor is responsible for repairing damaged sod. Every winter season, the City maintains a list of addresses of people who have reported sod damage as a result of the sidewalk plow. You can report sod damage by calling 311. Or, you can e-mail me and my staff will forward your address to the City to be added to the list. Be sure to include your name and full address and any related details of the damage.
How long can I expect it will take for my damaged sod to be repaired?
Sod repairs are typically done in spring or fall to ensure the best chance for the grass to grow. Depending on the nature of the damage, the ripped up grass will either be replaced with new sod or grass seed. Residents are asked to water the new sod/seed.
My vehicle was damaged by city equipment during snow clearing operations. What do I do?
You can file a claim through the City’s Risk Management department. The form to begin this process is available online on this page:
Budget and Contract
What are the details related to the City of Mississauga’s snow clearing contract?
City crews plow and salt more than 5,700 lane km of priority roads, 1,700 lane km of sidewalks, 3,300 bus stops, more than 1,000 pedestrian crossings and 105 km of roadside multi-use trails.
2021/22 marks the first year of the City’s approved new eight-year winter maintenance contract. New snow clearing equipment will allow the City to clear the roads more efficiently across the city, as snowplows will have the ability to salt and plow at the same time if necessary. In addition, an expanded anti-icing program will see the City use more brine equipment to help limit the use of road salt. Snow clearing of bus stops and priority sidewalks at the same time as the clearing of priority roads was an enhanced level of service introduced in 2019 and continues with this new contract to help meet accessibility needs.
How much does the City budget for snow clearing and what is the average cost per Mississauga household?
The annual winter maintenance contract for the City is just over $25 million and this works out to about 2.5% of the City’s annual operating budget (in 2022). With approximately 210,000 residential and business properties paying property taxes in Mississauga, the average residential household contributes about $120 toward snow clearing services in Mississauga each year.