Projet Montréal’s snow-removal plan

From February 2008: Will all weekends be like this?

From February 2008: Will all weekends be like this?

The snow hit the fan Tuesday morning, with La Presse reporting that Projet Montréal plans to change its snow removal policy for the Plateau and Ahuntsic-Cartierville (the two boroughs it holds the mayor’s seat for).

Instead of paying expensive overtime and equipment charges, the borough would increase the minimum amount of snowfall before they bring in the dump trucks from 8 to 15 centimetres. They would also no longer truck away snow on weekends, instead leaving it until Monday, to save money.

Note that this applies to snow removal, not snow clearing. The plows will still push snow to the side of the street and clear the way for traffic. What this will affect is parking, which tends to get creative when there are snowbanks.

Note also that this won’t apply to major thoroughfares, which are the central city’s responsibility, and so probably won’t apply to most places travelled by city buses.

But small residential streets that get significant snowfall on weekends might have to live with it for a day or two more.

Despite the reported non-trivial savings this move would create ($500,000 to $1 million, by Projet’s estimate), the reaction has been negative (or, at least, skeptical). Tristan Péloquin did a video streeter for Cyberpresse and only found one person who thought it was a good idea. Catherine Handfield found merchants whining about how a lack of parking would affect their businesses. Even Patrick Lagacé picks up the flag of the Pro Car Party (albeit reluctantly, and with a tiny car), saying snow clearing is expensive but needs to be done.

Give it a shot

Even though I’m perhaps a little biased because I don’t have a car, I’m willing to give Projet Montréal the benefit of the doubt and let them try this plan. I’m just as skeptical as the rest, in fact I have an added concern: If the idea is to save money by trucking away snow only during business hours, wouldn’t that cause incredible traffic chaos? Plus, why can’t truck drivers be regularly scheduled to work on weekends?

This is the first major policy initiative that Projet Montréal has come up with since the election, and unlike many of its promises during the campaign, it’s a logical, conservative, money-saving idea rather than a bold vision for massive spending. If we’re going to use their control of the Plateau borough as a testing ground for their eventual control of the city, we need to let them try stuff. If it fails, they can always switch it back with relatively little work.

They’re talking and listening

Part of this plan that intrigues me is also how Projet is going about it. While the Tremblay regime would just declare it a fait accompli and present it to city council, backing down only under overwhelming public protest like they did the Park Ave. name change, Projet is setting up a public consultation, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at the police brotherhood office on Gilford St.

Luc Ferrandez, the Plateau mayor, has also taken to his blog to get his message out directly to the citizens, bypassing the media filter. While I don’t think La Presse or other media got anything wrong here, hearing directly from a politician on his own terms can help people understand a bit more of the context and reasoning behind Projet’s plan. This is a clear example of why Ferrandez was right not to shut down his blog after the election.

Even if this project fails, doing so with democratic principles and by deferring to common sense would go a long way toward showing responsible leadership on behalf of Projet Montréal.

For the sake of municipal budgets, let’s hope this idea is a lot smarter than everyone thinks it is.

15 thoughts on “Projet Montréal’s snow-removal plan

  1. jean.naimard

    It would have been quite surprising that Plateau hipsters would not have been angered when their manhood substitute would have been attacked. After all, the emotions surrounding driving and it’s main implement (le bazou) are extremely primal.

    In any case, the Plateau is making the best it can out of a bad situation (blue collars being paid double on week-ends) they have no responsibility for (it’s Montréal-central who negociated such a collective agreement).

    Someone who drives a car on the Plateau deserves to be annoyed by uncleared streets.

  2. Jim J.

    Plus, why can’t truck drivers be regularly scheduled to work on weekends?

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that blue-collar union contracts may have something to do with this. Maybe I’m wrong, but I imagine this is a more-than-plausible explanation.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Clearly union issues are the cause of all the overtime headaches, but is it because blue collar workers have a Monday to Friday schedule, or is it because their contract requires hefty premiums for working weekends?

      1. Jim J.

        I’m not certain of the answer to your question; it’s a toss-up.

        However, taking away the blue collars’ overtime is certain to rile them up somewhat – they may call “provocative” or “upsetting labor peace” or some similar tired rhetoric. Typically, when you have overtime-eligible unions, and you deprive their membership the opportunity to earn overtime, they get a bit testy.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          Honestly, as someone who currently belongs to a union that has overtime rules in its contract, there are some people who will take overtime as much as they possibly can to earn more money, but it still means sacrificing a lot of inconvenience. Overtime means exactly that – working a longer day or week than normal. A lot of people aren’t crazy about doing that because they like to have a life.

          1. Jim J.

            Point conceded. Some employees want to work lots of overtime, some don’t want any overtime. When you tell them that they can’t have ANY overtime, though, that tends to make the union unhappy, like poking a hornets’ nest.

            Since I’m beginning from the assumption that Saturdays & Sundays is pretty much guaranteed overtime for those who choose to take it, then you’re taking away that overtime opportunity.

            My assumption may be incorrect, although I expect it isn’t.

  3. Caroline Lavergne

    For more info on the snow issue, I also recommend reading (in French, sorry), the latest entry on Projet Montréal’s Plateau team blog:

    And thanks for helping convince Luc Ferrandez to keep his blog open. I’m working on convincing all of Projet’s elected officials to blog, including Richard Bergeron…

    Community Manager and Web Communications Officer
    Projet Montréal – official – personal

  4. Maria Gatti

    I have never owned or driven a car, but I’m a bit concerned as a pedestrian. All that piled-up snow will mean horrible puddles and ice when it melts. I’m not young any more and am terrified of breaking something. I don’t live on the Plateau, but have friends who do, and I frequently walk down there.

  5. MM

    I knda think the plateau residents deserve it. They’re always first to go for the nutty ideas. But in the Ahuntsic/Cartierville area this is really bad. Plenty of houses in the area with cars. This will lead to trouble. Even walking some of those streets will be a problem for the elderly. Making people prisoners in their own homes will make Projet Mntreal look like a bunch of assholes.

  6. Des

    How often does it snow enough to require clearing on Friday-Sunday throughout the winter? If it snows on Friday, yes, it’ll be a long weekend of difficult parking, but otherwise, it’s a delay of only a day or two. This hardly seems like a life-changing decision.

    If I ran communications for the Plateau or for Montréal, I’d take a page from the ski resorts’ web sites and celebrate the snow – what’s the 24h total? What’s the base on Mont-Royal? What’s the total for the year-to-date? Are we talking powder, tracked powder, ‘hard-packed’ powder? Did it rain to the top? Which lifts/transit routes are open? What’s been groomed/cleared? Provide links to winter activities provided by the borough/city and others. Make it interesting, treat it like something to celebrate, while acknowledging that it is an inconvenience for many. That said, it seems like it must be possible to get the information out there in a more positive way.

  7. wkh

    this idea completely sucks. I’m gonna lead the group lighting cars on fire if this goes through. Just watch me. Sucktastic idea. How will the bicyclists get around to be able to cut cars off and drive the wrong way down St. Laurent?!

  8. 18xZoom

    This is a fantastic idea that is a step in the right direction. Snow removal is not an environmentally sustainable activity, nor is driving. This policy is a double-help!
    Then all those that can’t drive will have to take city transit (which is helps to financially support our public-people-movers AND saving money for those who can’t/won’t move their car).

    win win win.
    Go Projet Montréal!

    A hipster.


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