Thu Jan 29 2015
What are the rules when it comes to clearing snow in Toronto? When do you have to shovel? Do you have to use salt? What happens when a neighbour complains? We have the answers.
Snow has finally come to Toronto and it looks like this time you’ll have to get out the shovel. But what are the snow rules in the city? We talked to Hector Moreno, the City of Toronto’s manager of road operations, to find out what you’re meant to do when the snow starts sticking and what you can expect from the city.
Where do I put the snow I’ve shovelled?
Keep it on your property. Don’t push it into the road — that’s illegal and can land you a $360 fine, which goes up to $1,000 for repeat offenders. This season, 305 warnings have been sent out for illegal snow dumping, but only eight tickets have been issued.
Am I responsible for the sidewalk in front of my house?
The city will clear snow from sidewalks after eight centimetres of snow has fallen (five cm in January and February) when their equipment can do the job. If you live in the suburbs, the city will probably do the clearing for you. But if you live downtown and in central parts of Toronto, places where it’s hard for their equipment to get, you are required to clear your sidewalk within 12 hours of a snowfall. See the map above.
What if I live in a rental?
If you’re in a house rental, the nice thing to do would be to clear your sidewalk. But “ultimately the responsibility rests with the registered property owner,” says Moreno.
Do I have to use salt?
Use salt on sidewalks and steps only when necessary, the city recommends.
What happens if I don’t shovel?
You could face a $125 fine and wrath from your neighbours. But of 325 complaints made so far this winter, none has resulted in a ticket. Last winter, the city received 4,608 complaints and issued 144 fines.
How long do I have to wait for the city to clear my sidewalk?
Where the city provides the service, sidewalks will generally be plowed within 24 to 48 hours of a snowstorm. But the city asks for up to 72 hours after the snow has stopped.
What happens if I’m old or sick and live in the core?
The city currently clears sidewalks for 7,000 of the city’s sick and elderly. Sign up for the service here.
Who’s responsible if someone slips and falls on the sidewalk outside of my home?
Courts have ruled that municipalities are liable. In 2013, slip and fall claims cost Toronto $11.5 million, with an average claim coming out at $26,500.
My neighbours never shovel the sidewalk. What do I do?
It’s difficult for bylaw officers to “catch people in the act,” says Moreno, or non-act, in this case. Most fines are doled out after people call and complain about their neighbour — but even then the city “puts a lot of effort into education” as a first response, says Moreno. “Any subsequent complaints or follow-up investigations may result in fines being imposed for non-compliance,” says Moreno. “It should be noted that over the years we are seeing a higher rate of compliance ranging between 90 and 95 per cent.”
How long do I have to wait for a snowplow to come down my street?
Local road plowing begins if snow accumulation has reached eight cm once snow fall stops. Plowing on side streets will usually be completed within 14 to 16 hours. Bus stops and transit shelters will generally be plowed within 48 hours after a snowstorm.
Call 311 to report winter-related emergencies.
What else does the city do?
Toronto has an $85 million budget for winter operations, approximately 0.85 per cent of the total city budget, with a lot of effort made to keep roads open. As soon as snow begins, the city sends out its fleet of salt trucks to the expressways and main roads. Local roads and laneways are salted soon after. Plowing begins on expressways when 2.5 cm of snow has accumulated, and on the main roads when there’s five cm of snow, and continues until the operation is complete.
Can I park on the street during a snowstorm?
If possible, keep parked cars off the street so that plows can do their job. You might get a “friendly tow” if your car is in the way. If your car isn’t where you left it and the street has been cleared of snow, look on nearby streets. If you still can’t find it call 311 or Toronto Police Services at 416-808-2222416-808-2222.
How about parking on a snow route?
Parking is prohibited for a period of 72 hours on a designated snow route only when a “major snowstorm condition” (more than 25 cm of snow) is called. The tow won’t be so friendly then: you’re liable to pay up to $300 ($60 fine plus towing and impound costs) for parking on a snow route during a snow emergency. But the last snow emergency was declared in 1999, says Moreno, when then mayor Mel Lastman called the army in.
Where does the plowed snow go?
In most cases, snow gets pushed to boulevards and bigger roads nearby. But when the snow starts adding up, the city removes it to one of five snow storage sites dotted throughout the city and “lets Mother Nature do her thing,” says Moreno