Snow removal

Suburbs

When it's snowing and the weather forecast predicts a big snowfall, City of Kitchener operations staff move into action. The city clears snow and ice from the roads and sidewalks around city-owned facilities, walkways and parks. Kitchener residents are responsible for clearing snow and ice from sidewalks around their property. By working together, we can give residents safe and accessible transportation routes to get where they need to go.   

Sign up to receive notices about Snow Events, which trigger the City of Kitchener's tag-and-tow parking bylaw. 

New winter 2019/2020 pilot projects 

Council has directed staff to undertake a review of the city’s sidewalk snow clearing requirements and conduct four major pilot projects related to snow removal services.

City-led winter sidewalk maintenance pilots

The first pilot project will evaluate a city-led snow clearing service for 8cm snow events throughout the 2019/2020 Winter season by conducting winter maintenance services for 8cm snow events for 40 km of sidewalks. The results of this pilot will be reported to council by May 2020 along with policy recommendations.

The second pilot will evaluate the feasibility of providing a full service city-led sidewalk winter maintenance by conducting full winter maintenance service for 40 km of sidewalks. This would also be conducted throughout the Winter 2019/2020 season. The results and recommendations of this pilot will also be reported back to council by May 2020.

Proactive bylaw inspection pilot

Bylaw officers will proactively inspect sidewalks citywide. If a sidewalk is not cleared of snow and ice, a bylaw officer will leave a one-time notice at the property and return within 24 hours. If the sidewalk has still not been adequately cleared, the city will clear it and the property owner will be invoice approximately $400. The amount depends on the size of your lot and how long it takes the contractor to remove it. The results and recommendations of this pilot will also be reported back to council by May 2020.

Assisted sidewalk and windrow clearing services pilot – Registration opening Fall 2019!

The City of Kitchener will offer assisted sidewalk and windrow clearing services to a select umber of registrants.This is a pilot program and therefore space is limited. We are testing what works, what improvements can be made and to understand how much demand exists for this type of service. We will take this information back to city council in May 2020 to determine the future of this program.

Other aspects of the city’s snow-clearing  services will be assessed and reported back to council by May 2020, as outlined in staff report INS-19-010.

Snow removal assistance

There are agencies who provide snow removal to seniors or other individuals who are unable to clear their sidewalks, driveways or the windrows caused by plows at the end of driveways. Fees may apply. Please call:

Ask a neighbour, hire a private contractor, or contact your local high school to see if there are students who need volunteer hours and can help you through the winter. 

Snow removal information

Snow events 

A Snow Event is declared by the city when credible weather forecasts predict a significant snowfall and triggers the tag and tow bylaw which prohibits parking on city streets. Our operations roads crews aim to clear all streets within 24 hours when a Snow Event occurs. Keeping vehicles off the streets helps crews clear them, and keeps pedestrians and cars safe. 

 Tag-and-tow bylaw
From Dec. 1 – March 31 from 2:30-6 a.m. there is no overnight parking permitted on any city street, whether or not there is snow on the streets or snow plows are in operation. The tag-and-tow bylaw ensures cars are not parked on streets, which allows the city's operations crews to plow the streets safely and efficiently.

During a Snow Event, the city's tag-and-tow bylaw takes effect. City of Kitchener's operations crews aim to clear all streets within 24 hours after the storm stops.

Enforcement staff is asked to attend locations when a plow operator is unable to plow due to parked cars. Once enforcement staff assess the situation, they will ticket, and may tow, vehicles parked on the street so snow plow operators can continue their work.

The ticket for parking on the street during a Snow Event is $80. Vehicles will not be tagged and towed based on calls from the public. Vehicles are towed at owners' expense.

For more information on the city's tag-and-tow bylaw, please call 519-741-2345.

 How will residents know when a Snow Event is declared?
 The city's director of operations will declare a Snow Event at any time. Once a snow event is declared, the decision will be communicated in several ways:
  • this website;
  • on the City of Kitchener Facebook and Twitter accounts;
  • by email to residents who sign up to receive the city's snow-event advisories, and
  • by alerting local media.

Notification of a Snow Event is typically given by 5 p.m., and usually takes effect at midnight so that residents have time to move or make arrangements for their cars. Please note: overnight parking is NOT permitted on any city street from Dec. 1 to March 31 each year.

 How will residents retrieve their towed vehicles?
 Vehicles are only towed if plow operators are unable to plow the street without moving them. Typically, vehicles are towed to a nearby street or parking lot to make it as easy as possible for drivers to retrieve their vehicles. Owners of the vehicles that have been towed can call 519-741-2345 to find out the location of their vehicles.
Pick up free sand for icy sidewalks

Homeowners can pick up free sand for icy sidewalks and walkways at sandboxes located throughout the city. PLease ensure you bring your own shovel and container to collect the sand. Find free sand near you

Sidewalks

Sidewalks are for everyone. Do your part to keep our community moving safely. The public is responsible for keeping sidewalks around their property free of snow and ice within 24 hours after a snowfall. Walking is one of the most common forms of travel for Kitchener residents. Snow and ice can make it hard to get around and create barriers for anyone with a walker, wheelchair, stroller or other mobility device. 

Proactive bylaw inspection
Bylaw officers will proactively inspect sidewalks citywide. If a sidewalk is not cleared of snow and ice, a bylaw officer will leave a one-time notice at the property and return within 24 hours. If the sidewalk has still not been adequately cleared, the city will clear it and the property owner will be invoice approximately $400. The amount depends on the size of your lot and how long it takes the contractor to remove it. The results and recommendations of this pilot will also be reported back to council by May 2020.
Report unshovelled sidewalks
Call the Corporate Contact Centre at 519-741-2345. When a complaint is received, staff will be sent out to inspect the sidewalk. 
How long do I have to clear the sidewalk before bylaw enforcement begins? How is it enforced? 
You have 24 hours from when the snow stops falling. City bylaws require property owners or occupants to remove snow and ice from sidewalks. When staff receive a complaint about an unshovelled sidewalk, they inspect the property and issue a notice to the resident. If the sidewalk is not cleared upon re-inspection, the resident will be invoiced for snow removal by the city.

Bylaw officers will also be patrolling the city to ensure sidewalks are clear of snow and ice after 24 hours of a snowfall.
What can you do to get people to shovel their sidewalks?
Every year, the city conducts an outreach campaign to let people know about their responsibility to remove snow and ice from sidewalks (according to city bylaws). To report unshovelled walks, call 519-741-2345. When a complaint is received, staff will inspect the property and issue a notice to the resident. If the sidewalk is not cleared upon re-inspection, city staff will remove the snow and invoice the resident.
I am unable to clear my sidewalks. Who can help me?
There are agencies who provide snow removal to seniors or other individuals who are unable to clear their sidewalks. Fees may apply. Please call:

Contact your local high school to see if there are students who need volunteer hours and can help you through the winter. The city has also created a Snow Angel program to recognize those who help their neighbours clear their sidewalks. Learn more about the program or nominate a Snow Angel who has cleared your sidewalk (nomination form currently expired as program is seasonal and will reopen in the winter).

Why doesn't the city plow sidewalks?
Budget constraints do not provide sufficient resources to allow for this service. Also, according to a city report on winter sidewalk maintenance (2016), municipalities that implemented city-wide sidewalk snow-clearing identified that service levels are inconsistent, and sidewalks are maintained to snow-packed, not bare, conditions.
Why do plows go so fast and throw snow on my sidewalk?

There is no practical way to avoid pushing snow into driveway entrances during plowing operations. To avoid additional work, we suggest you delay clearing your driveway entrance until your street is cleared full width.

Plows must maintain a minimum speed to throw snow off to the side. Some sidewalks are very close to the curb and it is difficult to avoid getting snow on them. Please call 519-741-2345 to report these situations and we may remove the snow.

What about bus stops, or fire hydrants, or mailboxes? Who is responsible for clearing snow around those?
If you see that the hydrant closest to your home is buried by drifts or snowbanks, please dig it out or call the Kitchener Fire Department at 519-741-2582 or City of Kitchener at 519-741-2529 and select option #3.

Mail boxes: Please call Canada Post at 1-800-267-1177.

Bus stops: All inquiries should be directed to the Region – Grand River Transit 519-585-7555.

Who is responsible for snow removal at bus stops?
All inquiries should be directed to Grand River Transit at 519-585-7555.
Roads 
The City of Kitchener does its best to quickly clear the snow and ice to reduce hazards to motorists and pedestrians and acts as soon as a storm begins. To help with snow removal on city streets, please place garbage and recycling in the driveway area and NOT on the roadway on your collection day. Our snowplow drivers will thank you!
Snowplowing routes 
It takes 16-24 hours to complete all snowplowing routes after the snow has stopped falling. Other factors, such as temperature, future forecasts and precipitation, determine how and when plowing, salting or sanding should take place. Each snow plow is assigned a designated area of the city and priority for plowing is as follows:
  • Priority 1 = mains and arterials. All priority 1 and 2 routes and all GRT bus routes are maintained until complete.
  • Priority 2 = hills, curves & GRT routes. Work on Priority 2 streets begins only after Priority 1 streets have been completed. If snow resumes while in Priority 1 or 2, then clearing Priority 1 roads is restarted.
  • Priority 3 = Balance of backstreets, i.e. Full plow. Work on Priority 3 routes starts only after Priorities 1 and 2 have been completed. If snow resumes while in Priority 1 or 2, then clearing Priority 1 roads is restarted.

View the snow plow priorities map

FAQ's
Can't the city remove snow they've put in my driveway? 
Considering the large number of driveways in the city, it is too costly and time-consuming to use additional personnel and equipment to perform this service.
I'm concerned about the environment. Why don't you do more plowing and less sand and salt?
We're concerned about the environment, too. We are a leader in salt management including using anti-icing methods to reduce salt usage on winter roads. Anti-icing is a salt brine mixed with beet juice applied to the roadway before a snow event. This prevents snow and ice from bonding to the pavement and makes snow removal more efficient because less salt is needed to return roads to bare pavement.

Sanding or salting is required if ice is present. We apply salt to deice designated routes including hills, grades and intersections. If salt isn’t effective due to the weather we switch to sand.  
I see a lot of grass damaged by snow-clearing vehicles when the snow has melted. Will the damaged grass be fixed?
Yes. We begin repairs to any exposed grass areas damaged by snow-clearing operations along roadways and winter-maintained trails when we are confident that the snow is done falling, usually by early April. When we repair the grass, we apply topsoil, grade and seed the damaged area. Once we begin, it takes about six weeks to complete repairs across the city.
How do I report damaged grass?
Damaged grass can be reported to the City of Kitchener Corporate Contact Centre at 519-741-2345. Grass damage at bus stops should be reported to Grand River Transit at 519-585-7555.
When it snows, what can I do to help?
  • If you live in the City of Kitchener, respect the tag-and-tow bylaw: Keep parked cars off streets wherever possible.
  • Clear snow and ice from your sidewalks.
  • Don't push snow back onto roads - please shovel it onto private property.
  • Please place garbage and recycling in the driveway area and NOT on the roadway on your collection day.
  • Remind children not to climb or play on snowbanks.
  • If your fire hydrant or gas meter is buried by snow and ice, please clear it.
Special areas of the city 
The cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo often work together to ensure their services are efficient and their citizens are kept safe during the winter and the weather that comes with it. Each city approaches snow removal, including winter parking bylaws, in slightly different ways:
  • City of Cambridge

  • City of Waterloo

     Do you live on a border street?
    The cities of Kitchener and Waterloo share 20 roads, forming a seamless border for many residents. Both cities work together under a joint services program to make sure winter maintenance for these border streets is effective and efficient.

    The City of Waterloo maintains the following streets for Kitchener under its winter maintenance program:

    • Bridge Street West from city limit to Woolwich Street
    • Bridgeport Road East from city limit to Leander Place
    • Dodds Lane from city limit to Pine Street
    • Hartwood Avenue from city limit to Margaret Avenue
    • Hartwood Place
    • Herbert Street from city limit to Pine Street
    • Maple Hill Drive
    • Mary Street from city limit to Pine Street
    • Pine Street
    • Westmount Road West from city limit to Union Boulevard

    The City of Kitchener maintains the following streets for Waterloo under its winter maintenance program:

    • Aberdeen Road from city limit to Forsyth Drive
    • Avondale Avenue from city limit to John Street West
    • Belmont Avenue from city limit to John Street West
    • Dunbar Road from city limit to John Street West
    • Ellis Crescent South from city limit to Union Street East
    • Esson Street from city limit to John Street West
    • Fischer Hallman Road from Glasgow Street to University Avenue West
    • Graham Street
    • King Street South from city limit to Union Street East
    • Margaret Avenue from city limit to Union Street East
    • Moore Avenue South from city limit to Union Street East
    • Severn Street from city limit to John Street West
    • Union Street West from Union Boulevard to King Street South
    • Waterloo Street from city limit to Moore Avenue South
    • Weber Street South from city limit to Hartwood Avenue
    Downtown 
    The City of Kitchener works with the Downtown Kitchener BIA to keep streets clean and beautiful. The city looks after street and sidewalk sweeping, power washing and snow removal. The city also loads snow along streets in the downtown core and residential streets nearby. 
    Ward 5 Boulevard Program 
    From Dec. 1 to March 31 each year, in Ward 5 only, vehicles are permitted to park on the paved portion of a boulevard (ie. driveway ramp or apron). Certain conditions apply, and those not meeting the conditions may be ticketed and towed:
    • Vehicles must be on the paved driveway portion of the boulevard, not the landscaped (or hardscaped) portion;

    • Vehicles may not drive over the landscaped or hardscaped portions of the boulevard to get to the paved portion;

    • All of the vehicle's tires must be on the paved, hard surface boulevard driveway portion;

    • There can be no overhang of any part of the vehicle onto the sidewalk or roadway;

    • Boulevard parking is not permitted within 15 metres of an intersecting roadway;

    • Vehicles parked parallel to the road must be facing the direction of travel;

    • In the case of abutting driveways, vehicles must not overhang the projection of the property line.

    During a Snow Event, this program gives homeowners in Ward 5 a place to park their vehicle to allow snow plows easier access.

Salt use 
As part of our ongoing commitment to the environment, the City of Kitchener was the first area municipality to introduce a substantial anti-icing program as part of its routine approach to winter maintenance. Our "anti-icing" program reduces salt usage on winter roads. We apply liquid salt brine onto the roadway before a snow event to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement; this makes snow removal more efficient because less salt is required to return roads to bare pavement.

Through several initiatives under our salt management program, our winter maintenance contributes to a healthy environment for our residents.

Find out what you can do to be smart about salt on your property.

 Salt management program 
 The City of Kitchener has a salt management program that includes:
  • Our salting vehicles have computerized spreading controls to ensure that when salt is released it is consistent regardless of the speed of the vehicle.
  • All salters are equipped with pre wetting technology which sprays a salt brine directly on the rock  salt as it comes off the spinner. This technology alone represents a 25% reduction in salt use compared to applying dry rock salt as it reduces scatter and bounce, and helps to ensure salt stays where it is applied
  • We have invested in Epoke salters, which are better for the environment.
  • We have an advanced anti icing program for our priority 1 and priority 2 routes. When snow or ice is in the forecast, we pretreat the roads by applying salt brine. This practice reduces the amount of salt used when compared to applying salt after the snow falls.  
  • Our salt storage building allows us to load our trucks with salt inside which minimizes impacts to the environment.
  • Our staff are trained in salt management and ensure these practices are applied in their daily work. 

 

Municipal sidewalk, trails and paths clearing

You can view the sections of sidewalk, trails and paths the city is responsible for using the map below.

The city maintains a network of multi-use paths (MUPs) and multi-use trails (MUTs).

  • MUPs are largely associated to the regional road network and provide a wider, asphalt surface for pedestrians, cyclists and other users. The city maintains these pathways during the winter in agreement with the Region of Waterloo. The region is responsible for other maintenance such as repairs, brush cutting and grass cutting.
  • MUTs are the city’s network of trails, some of which may run along city streets, but many run through our parks and open spaces. These asphalt surfaced trails provide for year-round use by multiple users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Many of these are maintained in the winter, but not all.

The city does not maintain trails and parking lots that are not surfaced (concrete or asphalt). This is to avoid damage and because the application of salt in these areas is less desirable.

The city maintains certain sections of sidewalks. This work includes, and is limited to:

  • Sidewalks that front city-owned property, such as community centres
  • Sidewalks within the downtown core, where the city works with the Downtown Kitchener BIA to perform an enhanced service level

The city also maintains ‘back lot’ sidewalks - those sections of sidewalk which run along the back fence of properties, that owners are not required to maintain under the bylaw. As well as walkways between neighbourhoods, community centres sidewalks, crossing guard locations and some crosswalks.

What's it like to be a snowplow driver? Catch a ride with a driver in this video to find out.

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