Can Canada teach us how to remove snow?

Minneapolis has enacted parking restrictions, which introduces a new world of hurt in the winter driving season. The restrictions ban parking on the even side of all non-snow emergency routes through April 1.

The city’s assistant fire chief says the snow has been piled up along the curb, reducing the width of the road and making it difficult to get fire trucks through.

St. Paul is also considering parking restrictions.

Can we learn something in cities where it snows a lot?

Take Montreal, for instance, which gets about 82 inches of snow a year. They plow the streets the conventional way to get traffic moving, then they remove it.

First, a grader puts the snow in the middle of the street, scraping the snow clear from the curb.

A little buddy takes care of the sidewalk…

Then, a typical plow truck cleans the street and makes a nice line of snow…

Then this baby comes along…

And you have a cleared street.

The snow is taken to one of 28 disposal sites in the city where it is melted and then treated. Each winter, about 300,000 truckloads of snow is removed from Montreal streets.

Where are all the cars? Montreal provides free parking in lots and garages during snow removal operations.

The city uses 172 vehicles to clear roads, and 188 to clear the sidewalks.

Typically, the city says, all the snow is removed in fewer than five days for a 7 inch snowfall, about five days if it snows a foot.

Montreal is bigger than either of the Twin Cities — 1.6 million people live there. Geographically, the city is almost three times the size of Minneapolis.

Of course, the snow removal operation in Montreal is full of stories of corruption, collusion, bid-rigging and violence. But, hey, at least people get to park their car.

(YouTube video)

  • MrE85
  • Jim G

    My dyslexia hindered my reading comprehension. I read it as: Put a first grader in the middle of the street, then his little buddy comes along and does the sidewalk, and then this baby comes along…

    • Rachel

      Haha. That is exactly what I read too.

  • Guest

    The parking ban in Uptown SUCKS. There is too little parking as it is, then to eliminate half of it makes things even worse. Not to mention this happens year after year and the city has yet to figure it out. Nor do they want to. Who cares when we that live there are mostly transitory and marginal.

    This should be titled can Montreal teach us what snow removal is. The plows here don’t remove snow they just move it back on to the sidewalk and curbs for the drivers, caretakers and home owners to deal with.

  • KTN

    Just spent the weekend in Quebec City, and not only do they remove the snow, there is a requirement for snow tires too. So, no bald tired cars scooting around looking for traction. Traffic rolled along on the freeway at 50, where here, we would have been in gridlock
    We had aboot 7 inches while we were there, and I saw some enterprising young boys with these pads, with studs on one side and rubber on the other, which they slid under the tires of a stuck car, and like nothing happened, the car was not stuck any longer.

  • jon

    Need not go to Canada… they do similar in northern Michigan (the UP)

    On rural roads they don’t bother with the dump truck… they just snow blow the stuff some 30-40 feet off the side of the road.

    One of the buildings I worked at in the suburbs cleared the snow in their parking lot by pushing it all into a retention pond… by the end of a good snow year they had quiet the pile where there used to be a hole in the ground… it’d melt out through the pond and back into lakes and ground water…

    • Kassie

      No need to go to Michigan, they do this in downtown Minneapolis. It is almost all removed. They know how to do it in the cities, it is just too expensive I’d guess.

      • Oh, that’s what I meant to add. The average cost of a 7 inch snowstorm is about $ 17 million. Total season is about $150 million, the city says. Montreal spends about twice per snowstorm what Mpls spends in an entire winter.

        • John

          I think you just answered your headline question. They can, but we won’t learn because we aren’t willing to pay for it. We’ll just complain about how crummy it is without doing anything to make it better – because we can’t do it for free.

  • Matt Black

    Houghton, MI does a similar snow removal method. The city is so much smaller population wise it makes it a lot easier. They do generally get 200+ inches of snow in a season though.

  • John O.

    My hometown in Wisconsin uses a similar approach. They have the additional ability to truck it outside the city limits to some vacant city-owned land where it is dumped.

  • bri-bri

    I lived in Sapporo, Japan, where the average annual snowfall is 248 inches (over 4x the Minneapolis average of ~55in). Before resorting to hauling snow away, city workers went to great lengths to carefully pile snow to impressive heights (often taller than me, so 6 feet or more) on boulevards, medians, and anywhere else space permitted.

  • John Peschken

    So apparently we can do this but don’t want to pay. So we have yet another result of the constant push for lower taxes and slash budgets. We get what we pay for. No surprise.

  • tboom

    “The snow is taken to one of 28 disposal sites in the city where it is melted and then treated.”

    Using a process which produces no greenhouse gasses, no doubt.

  • kcmarshall

    I’m curious to see if true snow removal like this becomes necessary along the new Green Line route. University is pretty tight now with the tracks running down the middle and there is snow left unshoveled this year (platform ramps and walkways) which will need to be moved next year.

    Side note: when my boy was little, he loved to watch videos of real life machines in action. Mighty Machines “In the Snowstorm” (Season 2, Episode 1 on Netflix streaming) may be the original source of the screencaps you post here, Bob. I have to admit I found this episode pretty entertaining – although the dialog between the machines was lame.

  • Brooke M

    Whenever I am in Milwaukee during a snowstorm, I am flabbergasted by what a marvelous and thorough job they do with plowing. I don’t think they remove the snow, but they make multiple passes with plows on residential streets, and use all manner of fancy machines to detail the curbs and corners. People in WI can’t believe it when I tell them what a terrible job they do with plowing here. Logic says that the farther North a city is, the better they should be at dealing with snow. I have learned all too well in over a decade of living here that that is absolutely not the case.

  • SnowMan

    Wanamingo, MN does the same thing as Montreal…it works!

  • Snow is already removed in this fashion (or something similar) in downtown Minneapolis. But, I wonder if all of Montreal’s /residential/ streets are cleared, too? If not, then, their situation is no better than what Minneapolis residents have to now deal with wrt restricted parking.

    • Yes, we’re not talking downtown. This is a residential snow removal program.

    • John McClane

      Every urban street in Montreal is done that way, yes.

  • Joe Musich

    We had the photo op of Mpls whigs of bigness celebrated their own angst making the abnnouncement of single side parking. I was really put off by the posturing ! Now this excellent piece of reporting you present. I think most drivers are thinking to themselves, “there has got to be a better way !” Now we know there is. The question I have is how do the resources implemented compare between here and Montrel ? My inclination would be to think we here put much less into snow removal. Got to pay for sports stadiums ya know ! Probably a greater degree of denial here about the existence of winter also. Opps ! I should have read down further about the expenses for removal. Nevertheless, how does savings from less expenses for safety after the fact figure in ? Busted cars, pedestrians run down due to lack of visibility, etc !

  • rst1317

    Why is the city subsidizing parking? End that and a lot of the snow complaints will go away.

  • SatJ

    Montreal also has rolling parking bans – so rather than not being allowed to park on one side or the other, cars just have to be moved right before the street is plowed.

    A truck comes right before the plows with a sort of honking/siren thing that lets you know you have a few minutes to move your car, then you can put it back when they’re done.

    It’s especially important in some of the older neighbourhoods which are very dense, have no driveways, few lanes and even fewer parking lots.

  • Mark

    My guess is that the system outlined above would cost between 50 to 80+% more than our current system of 1 to 2 passes per lane of traffic per snow emergency.They are doing 4-6 passes if you include the removal trucks and then have to pay for energy to have the snow melted too…
    It is unclear if this system is used on every street in Montreal, or just parkways like the one shown. The biggest problems in uptown are not on main roads, but on all the side streets.
    Everyone wants more government services in this area, but who wants to pay for them?

  • Wanted to live in Mpls

    Failure of Mpls administrations to provide off-street parking for snow removal, and instead towing 1,000 cars every snowfall, is criminal dereliction of duties, for decades. Other northern cities have solved this, years ago.