Montreal launched its first snow-removal operation in November last year, and while it's hard to believe winter is coming soon, given the recent weather, city officials are gearing up for a season unlike any other.
COVID-19 means more people are working from home than ever before, and snow crews will have to follow a long list of health restrictions to prevent outbreaks.
That means the city's biggest obstacle in removing snow from streets quickly — parked cars — will be even more challenging as some neighbourhoods will be filled with vehicles while others areas, such as the downtown, will have very few.
"People will have to remove their car," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante on Monday.
To help, the city has added 2,000 supplemental parking spaces in private lots that can be used during operations. That brings the total of available spots up to 7,600.
Plante said people should download and use the city's Info-Neige app to know when and where to move their car during snow-removal operations.
An average of 8,000 cars are towed away during each four-day snow-removal operation in Montreal.
It always causes slowdowns, but now there is a new stick in the spokes — COVID-19. The city has a gamut of public health restrictions in place to keep employees and contractors safe.
"When there is an outbreak, that can definitely be difficult," Plante said. "We will have to adapt how we work."
New rules will include handwashing, distancing and team bubbles, much like Quebec classrooms, to limit the reach of COVID-19 if there is an outbreak. These measures may slow down the snow clearing, Plante said.
As for sidewalks, they still fall under the responsibility of each borough, Plante said, but the centre city will be working with boroughs to keep them clear.
Cost stays about the same, Parenteau says
"We paid particular attention to parking in order to offer more flexibility to citizens," said Verdun Mayor Jean-François Parenteau in a statement.
He is responsible for citizens services. Like every year, he said, it will be necessary to "be able to count on the co-operation of everyone to ensure smooth operations."
Parenteau said the extra measures this year won't cost the city much more than previous years, and the budget has barely increased.
WATCH | Montreal mayor outlines snow operations for the upcoming winter season:
Other steps the city is taking:
Rapid withdrawal of parking bans once snow removal is complete.
Increased interventions by the mobility squad in order to limit blockage by construction sites, urban furniture and other interruptions.
Snow removal from park trails to allow everyone to enjoy outdoor activities.
Prioritize removing snow from protected bike lanes.
Opposition says not enough being done
Opposition leader Lionel Perez says there isn't enough money being invested in snow removal, especially when it comes to sidewalks.
"Yet again, Montreal will not receive the kind of snow removal that they are entitled, that they deserve and which they pay for," said Perez of Ensemble Montréal.
Perez said it is more important than ever to have sidewalks clear as people will be walking around in their neighbourhoods. He said it is inexcusable to put the entire onus on boroughs to keep them clear.
"She is the one who decides the budget," he said. "She is the one who decides the standards and the contracts that are given. And nothing is new on that front."
As for the additional 2,000 parking spots, Perez said, that's about how many were removed a couple years ago and the city is simply bringing them back, but they are not necessarily in convenient locations.
He said those parking spots are better adapted to people who commute to work rather than to helping residents find parking.
"Those aren't places that are near their homes," Perez said. "We anticipate that there will be an incredible increase in the towing of cars because of this."