Prior to the year’s first snowfall, talk of a cash injection for city snow clearing had already begun.
After last week’s storm, the mayor, whose 15-minute commute turned into an hour, announced he would be urging council to throw an extra few million dollars towards snow removal, explaining “the cost is well worth the additional benefit, even if it’s 10, 15, 20 minutes off your commute time.”
The problem is we don’t have an extra few million dollars. It’s not even a few million, anyway. A civic committee was told last month it would cost $14 million for better snow removal.
Another city columnist tried to justify the $14 million, rationalizing the $22.50 extra for Calgary taxpayers. That’s an overly simplistic sales pitch, though. All city programs and services will need to be examined in a still-uncertain economic climate as council grapples with a budget shortfall.
Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart, in favour of additional snow removal funding, had already vowed in September she would be spearheading further debate on the issue. Last week, Ald. Ric McIver joined the chorus after he damaged his car when he slid into a curb at the bottom of a hill, leading me to wonder why he wasn’t driving with winter tires. Further, why don’t any of these civic leaders commute sustainably?
Can we not see the forest for the trees? Weather happens and there are two simple strategies we can employ to deal with it.
First, expect delays. We live in a four-season climate. No matter how much money you throw at snow removal, if a snowstorm blows through, things are going to slow down a bit. Chill out.
Besides that, Chinooks remove snow for free — just wait a few days.
Second, shift the responsibility to yourself. Auto industry sources say winter tires reduce collisions, thus reducing traffic jams and delays. All-season tires just don’t cut it for Calgary.
They lose grip when the temperature drops below –10 C. Winter tires have a deeper tread pattern and are more flexible, shaving almost 40 per cent off the stopping distance compared to all-seasons. That’s why Quebec made winter tires mandatory.
Perfectly dry roads are a luxury we cannot afford right now, especially with a price tag of $14 million. That’s a cost of $1 million a minute saved on a daily commute, when all we need is common sense.