City of Vancouver says it's ready for winter (no, for real this time)

Nov 11 2017, 3:13 am

The City of Vancouver is ready for the white stuff. No, for real this time.

And after last winter, which saw cars slide uncontrollably down city streets and residents line up for salt which had already run out, city officials unveiled their updated snow response plan and winter strategy this week.

The plan, they said, includes “enhanced response capabilities,” based on what they say are “lessons learned” from the city’s winter war last year.

In a statement, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said that he takes “snow and ice removal seriously.”

The city’s priority, he explained, is “ensuring main arterials and pedestrian paths are free of snow and ice, to keep streets clear and safe for all users.”

Robertson reminded people that while the city has “invested more resources and equipment this year,” residents should also “plan ahead to be well prepared for winter weather.”

What’s new in the winter plan this year

Okay, enough talk about it. What does the city have in its updated arsenal to deal with a potential winter wallop this year?

Well, for starters, there will be expanded coverage locations, increased salt storage, and “prioritized service” response times.

The City said it has also added new vehicles to the fleet that are “adaptable for use” in all seasons.

Other parts of the plan include:

  • Using case study mapping to identify high priority areas and target response zones;
  • Training: For more drivers so that the City has more crew members to call on for support;
  • Deploying: Mud and snow or all-weather tires to all non-commercial City fleet vehicles (and chains for those with a Gross Vehicle Weight more than 5,000 kg);
  • Fleet expansion: Expanding the City’s fleet to include vehicles adaptable for use in all seasons to allow better access to some neighbourhood laneways for garbage and green bin collection. Additional equipment will include more dump trucks with ‘winter package’ equipment enabled for snow and ice, and utility vehicles.
  • Priority routes: A 3-tier priority route schedule with prioritized response times for each tier: Priority 1 – clearance in 12 hours or less (includes emergency routes and pedestrian paths associated with bike lanes), Priority 2 – clearance in under less  48 hours ( includes school and transit routes, as well as main arterial hills, pedestrian routes and associated bike lanes), Priority 3 – clearance in up to 7 days (everything else).
  • Crews: Will also be at the ready 24 hours a day, the city noted.

Last winter was “exceptional”

Last year was an “exceptional winter,” said Jerry Dobrovolny, GM of City Engineering Services.

Dobrovolny said officials estimate the winter was a “once-in-30-year event.”

That said, “we’ve learned valuable lessons that have allowed us to follow our ethos of continuous improvement to ultimately design higher levels of service for future winter seasons.”

Salt storage facility (City of Vancouver)

The Vancouver Park Board said it has also developed a snow response plan and staff said priorities will be modified based on accumulated snow and risks.

Dealing with winter yourself

While the city is stepping up its winter battle game, it also provided a list of tips and tricks to help residents avoid issues and/or deal with problems quicker once the snow starts flying.

Some of these include:

  • Be prepared: Making sure you have shovels, snow boots, snow tires, and salt before the first big snowfall.
  • Knowing your obligations: All property owners and occupants must clear snow and ice from sidewalks around their property by 10 am the morning after a snowfall, seven days a week. Failure to remove snow and ice may result in fines.
  • Getting winter tires: If you drive through the winter, consider getting tires with the three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol or the mud and snow symbol, with at least 3.5 mm tread. The Province of BC requires these tires on provincial highways.
  • Moving your car: City crews plow major roads and bus routes. By moving your car to a side street or garage when snow is predicted or after it snows, City crews can better clear arterials for all users.
  • Avoiding driving if you can: Check transit schedules at for commuting alternatives.

But what about the salt?

After the great salt shortage that left Vancouver on the edge last year, the city has come back this season with more in store, literally.

People lined up for free salt in East Vancouver last winter. (@Xavier/Twitter)

The city said it has updated salt contracts to “secure expanded quotas of salt at a lower price, and updates to salt and brine storage capacity.”

Okay, so exactly how much salt does this equal?

Overall, inventory has been increased from 2,700 to 8,000 tonnes, or about three times the amount that was available last year.

In addition, storage tank capacity for brine has increased from from 11,000 to 30,000 gallons.


So, will that be enough to prevent the near-salt riots that took place last year, or will they just be three times as big? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, stay safe and good luck out there this winter.

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Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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