Centre For Local Research into Public Space (CELOS)

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Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis





Sidewalk snow clearing

From the Dufferin Grove Park newsletter, November 2019:

In March, Mayor Tory asked Transportation Services management for a report on the problem. Management hired two consulting companies to look at the problem – HDR Inc., an Omaha (Nebraska) international engineering firm, and IPSOS, a market research firm based in Paris (France, not the Paris that’s in Ontario) – to investigate. (Yes, really.)

On October 17, their findings were presented to a committee of council.

The HDR engineering report summary begins by saying that service standards for Toronto “generally exceed other municipalities’ levels of service on the lower volume roadways such as local and residential streets, and sidewalks.” The IPSOS survey found that “a majority (57 percent) of residents are satisfied with the winter maintenance services provided by the City of Toronto.” read more

Freedom of Information request, Nov.20, 2019:

Records Requested*: Please send me electronic copies of the following two contracts issued by city staff sometime after March 2019: (1) HDR, Inc. to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing winter maintenance services and (2) Ipsos Public Affairs to solicit feedback from Toronto residents and road users on their opinion of the City's winter services. These contracts are referenced in the Oct.17, 2019 report to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2019.IE8.6 Please include the value (cost) of each of these contracts. NOTE: I asked Transportation this question directly but they did not answer it.

Dec.18, 2019, from FOI: after January 17 there will be a decision on whether the records I asked for will be disclosed.

Jan.28, 2020, I asked FOI when I would find out the decision. Same day response:

My apologies for the delay. We are handling a large volume of files at the moment. As a result, some things are a bit behind.

The decision letter with respect to the above noted file will be sent for signature today. However, please note as with other 3rd party notice files, the 3rd party will still have a chance to appeal the City's decision before anything can be released.

read more

Pilot project for using the new sidewalk ploughs in central Toronto

link to the city's information page.

details, specifics of "sidewalk trial" with routes are here.

To give feedback: Dominic Guthrie, program manager, at 416 396-4802, Dominic.Guthrie@toronto.ca

March 2, 2020, email to the pilot project manager Dominic Guthrie, from Jutta Mason:

Last Friday morning at 8.15 a.m. I was excited to see one of the new sidewalk ploughs for the first time -- in front of my house near Dufferin and Bloor (we're on the seniors' sidewalk clearing program). That was the good news. The bad news was that the snow had stopped 24 hours before, and the three of us seniors who live in this house, together with a little help from neighbours, had already cleared off the snow the day before (since it's the law). It looks like the sidewalk plough scraped along the clear sidewalk and then put down some salt on the concrete.

There are going to be glitches with anything new, plus the snow has been only occasional this winter. However, I called 311 asking how I can give some feedback about this particular glitch. They didn't know, and actually referred me to a different department (the content manager will fix that now, I'm told).

311 said you're in charge of the pilot. I looked up the city's web page about it -- interesting, but I don't see any feedback link on the page. Also, is there a public dashboard telling which how it's going, how many barriers have been encountered (damage to ploughs etc), how much extra the cost has been so far, etc?

It seems to me that city pilot programs would benefit from making a dashboard of progress available to the city residents. And also it would be helpful for you to get low-barrier/non-meeting/non-post-it-notes feedback from citizens (cheaper than hiring Ipsos).

Is there a already such a dashboard, and a place for comments, and I just missed it?

March 3, 2020, from Dominic Guthrie

Thank you for your comments.

We are referring to our use of the new sidewalk plows as an 'equipment feasibility trial'. We've cleared sidewalks in response to five winter events since the trial was launched in early February. The focus of the trial is really to determine if we have the appropriate equipment to accomplish the task. It needs to be small enough to be manoeuvrable on narrow sidewalks yet be powerful enough to be able to push the snow.

We don't have a dashboard set up. You can provide comments either directly to me or through the office of your councillor. [highlight from CELOS]

I can tell you that the feedback has generally been positive from all stakeholders. Winter has been relatively kind to us and we've not experienced any extended periods of freezing temperatures. As yet, there has been no reported damage to private property which was something that concerned us and had made us reluctant to provide this service in the past. We've been cautious in how we've designed our routes. The sidewalk routes in the trial areas are much shorter than those in the more suburban areas. This was to facilitate the sidewalk being cleared during daylight hours to allow our operators greater visibility on the narrow downtown sidewalks where there are often parked cars on one side and encroachments (hedges, fences, steps, etc.) on the other. In order to maximize the learnings from the trial, we have developed beats that are cleared over multiple days – which might be why your sidewalk was not cleared as quickly as you would have liked. But this is also something to work on.

Sept.21, 2020 Copy of IPSOS contract re snow clearing public opinion

Public Opinion Research Services

The intent of this solicitation is to identify and obtain the services of a qualified firm to assist the City of Toronto in conducting public opinion research using a representative online survey.

TOTAL $12,927.20 read more

The HDR snow removal research contract cost the city of Toronto $213,886. read more

Oct.23, 2020

Audit Committee consideration of winter maintenance. To watch: torontocitycouncillive.html.

Follow up: the item was discussed in camera, so no broadcast of the discussion is available.

From the auditor's summary:

From the issues identified during our audit, we estimate that the City could have saved approximately $7.1 million over five years for the full fleet of winter maintenance vehicles. In addition, there are many efficiencies to be gained by leveraging GPS to the fullest, as well as other opportunities that we are unable to quantify.

If the express terms of the contract had been applied, we estimate the City could have saved $24 million over the past five years in contractor standby charges.

The total estimated impact of our audit findings is $31 million over five years.

With two years remaining in the current contract cycle, there is a potential saving of an estimated $9.6 million if the express terms of the standby provisions of the contract are applied and depending on legal advice. This opportunity needs to be studied further by Legal services on behalf of City Council.

Nov.4, 2020

Follow-up letter from Barbara Gray, Manager, Transportation Services. "....a previous study examining Transportation Services'service levels (HDR, 2019) demonstrated that the City exceeds the performance levels of our peer municipalities(e.g.,York, Durham, Montreal, New York)...."

Nov.6, 2020: Snow and ice clearing for Toronto water facilities

The bid award panel has approved a Contract for Across Canada Construction Limited for $400,549 (net of HST recoveries).


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Content last modified on November 12, 2020, at 10:18 PM EST