Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is proposing adding $5 million over the next three years to the city’s snow removal and clearing budget as it’s expected the service will be worse this winter.
“Making sure that we have enough resources for snow removal, ice control and access to public transit and improving people’s experience to public transit are the core responsibilities of city council,” Sohi said.
The mayor put forward the motion during Wednesday’s Urban Planning Committee meeting. It comes nearly a year after council approved an $11-million increase over four years to the snow-removal and clearing budget.
However, that was a lot less than the suggested $42-million increase over the same time period.
As a result, it’s expected the service will be worse this winter because of the city’s growth and inflation.
A city report shows the wait for snow and ice clearing around transit stops will rise from as much as 13 days to 22 days. However, Sohi said his motion would bring that timeline back down to 13 days.
“Making this investment will allow us to improve snow and ice removal as well as ice control, at the same time improving access for Edmontonians — a safe way of accessing bus stops and buses and LRT stations — and also helping people with disabilities to move around our city,” Sohi said.
City Coun. Tim Cartmell said he supports the spirit of the motion but has questions about where the money will come from.
“There is further conversation to be had at the council table about where money comes from and where money goes to, and I don’t think we finished that conversation yet,” Cartmell said.
Sohi has suggested the city could use money it receives from EPCOR to improve transit services.
On Thursday, the city sent a news release that it would be making changes to its Community Sandbox program to improve snow and ice control service, including bus stops. The sandbox program provides free, dry sand for communities to use to make sidewalks safer during the winter.
“This winter season, a small number of boxes will be removed from locations where monitoring has shown less demand,” the city’s news release said.
The Edmonton Transit Service Advisory board presented a report to the Urban Planning Committee on Wednesday. The report states snow and ice clearing around transit stops should be a priority.
“A pathway is really important and sometimes there’s some inconsistencies with the snow clearing, which can be dangerous for anyone who is taking the bus,” advisory board member Giselle General said.
The advisory board is also recommending the city increase the number of shelters at bus stops and builds some heated shelters.
“A shelter that even gives a little bit of reprieve from the temperatures can make a commute more comfortable and will increase the user experience when they’re taking transit,” advisory board member Serena Tang said.
There are 5,050 bus stops in Edmonton and almost half have shelters. Sohi supports building more shelters.
“I would love to see more heated, as a former bus driver and as a user of the system. I used public transit often when I was working in different places and as an ETS driver,” Sohi said.
“We need to improve that experience and we need to continue to innovate, finding different ways of building those shelters.”
Sohi said city administration will be working with the University of Alberta on designing shelters that protect transit users from the climate as well as protect the shelters from vandalism.