Hey, there! Log in / Register

Councilors to look at expanding plowing to sidewalks, crosswalks across Boston

The Boston City Council today agreed to take a look at stealing a page from Canadian cities and Rochester, NY, which send out municipal mini-plows after big snowstorms to clear sidewalks.

"I just don't think 'America's walking city' can have the sort of happenstance approach to sidewalk clearance that we have," Councilor Kenzie Bok (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, Mission Hill), who proposed the study, said at a council meeting today - a meeting that, like last week's, was held over Zoom instead of in person. The idea will now go to a Council committee that will hold public hearings on the idea.

Bok praised Boston's Public Works Department for experimenting this season with Bobcats to clear bike lanes, accessibility ramps and some crosswalks, but said it's time for Boston to come up with a better, far more expansive system rather than just waiting for complaints to come in, even if that does mean hiring more staff, buying more equipment and developing a detailed plan for plowing sidewalks. She said she would support looking at municipal shoveling or plowing in a pilot area that would be smaller than the entire city initially.

She noted that while Boston requires property owners to shovel the publicly owned sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses, "we wouldn't settle for it as a solution on roads," she said, referring to the particular burden on the elderly and people with mobility problems in the days after a major storm like Saturday's.

City Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester) suggested the city could use some of its federal Covid-19 funds to start up such a program. He said New York has something like 10,000 "day laborers," whom he said get paid $10 an hour, who agree to be on call for such tasks as intensive snow shoveling.

City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale), said he received numerous calls from senior citizens pleading for help shoveling their walks and stairs after Saturday's storm, and suggested creating some sort of system that could provide funds for seniors to hire young people willing to do some shoveling.

City Councilor Julia Mejia (at large) said she hopes the discussion can be expanded to include a discussion of why "certain neighborhoods are getting a little bit more attention" than others. She did not specify.

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Bok's meeting request186.17 KB

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

I don't understand why street-sweeping is only a seasonal thing. I'm looking out at my street right now and there are mounds of snow still in the street at intersections and gutters. If we had year-round street cleaning then people would need to dig their cars out and the street could be plowed to the curb. This would also assist with this place-saving foolishness we seem to be unwilling to cure in this town...

up
Voting closed 35

$10/hr to shovel snow (a tiring, unpleasant job) would not seem to jibe with current market conditions. It is a good idea to figure out how to pay for gig labor to do it though, given the variability.

up
Voting closed 23

Frank, come over and shovel my driveway. I'll give you $10 per hour and a free pass to Boston Bowl. (shoes not included)

up
Voting closed 12

I'm of the mind that the costs of having the City plow every sidewalk in every neighborhood would outweigh the benefits, but I honestly don't know what the cost of the program would be.

I am with Mejia on her point. If this becomes a program where residential streets in Beacon Hill and Back Bay get cleared but isn't extended to neighborhoods like Dorchester and Hyde Park, equity would be an issue.

up
Voting closed 26

If it's a snow emergency street then it should be fully cleared, including sidewalks and all 'downtown' districts should be cleared fully. We already know where the traffic and pedestrian density is, we just need to deal with it.

up
Voting closed 14

A lot of pedestrians use side streets to get to T stops. That would suggest the City clear those sidewalks as well.

up
Voting closed 12

Given the variability of snow removal, we'll have to either accept that the city will take days to clear a big storm like this (instead of just quitting like this time) or that the city should focus on really dealing with core areas and using the old system (occupants/owners are responsible) for residential sidewalks. I just don't think it's practical for the city to own clearing all the problem areas after 1-2' snowfalls in any kind of acceptable time frame so outsourcing is needed.

up
Voting closed 18

Are there streets and sidewalks that need more attention? Sure. However, on the whole, the "each owner must clean their sidewalk" rule totally works. There is no way the city is going to clean all the sidewalks from my house to the train station as quickly as having each house do their part.

Important to note, this storm was historically one of the larger ones ever and the city didn't grind to a halt.

up
Voting closed 18

but we can/should do better in core areas.

up
Voting closed 11

Maybe start small with the core as you suggest, but continue to add on yearly. They can always hire seasonally and those employees have to know they're on call when snow is on it's way.

up
Voting closed 7

Is Mejia a Citywide City Councilor or does she represent a district? If Citywide, why is she pitting neighborhoods against one another for a program that does not exist?

up
Voting closed 9

So citywide.

up
Voting closed 8

I live along the Fens, so the DCR plows our sidewalk with a little bobcat. We just have to do the ~10 ft path to our building and the front steps. I mentally thank MA taxpayers after each snowstorm. Highly recommend!

up
Voting closed 25

...which is apparently somebody else's problem. Nice wide shoveled sidewalk on either side, then a narrow slushy icy path in between. Typical Boston jurisdiction dispute, no doubt.

up
Voting closed 11

If so, you are correct, that's a MassDOT roadway.

up
Voting closed 9

The sidewalk segment directly above the water was barely shoveled, more like trampled into a single-file pedestrian lane. No way a wheelchair or walker device could use it.

up
Voting closed 8

City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale), said he received numerous calls from senior citizens pleading for help shoveling their walks and stairs after Saturday's storm,

Whatever happened to senior citizen homeowners paying the kid across the street a few dollars to shovel them out?

up
Voting closed 12

I think the lack of big snow storms the last couple of years has allowed people to not need a plan for shoveling. My son mows lawns in the summer. He got two calls on his cell phone Saturday morning - he's away at college - from people who aren't even his clients, asking if he could come and shovel. (Nextdoor was awash in people looking for shovelers as well.) There are people out there to shovel, but you can't wait until the middle of a blizzard to line them up.

up
Voting closed 11

When was the last time you paid to have your walks cleared? It’s more than a few dollars. But since overall incomes continues to suck upward so that the fewest have the most, and the least economically productive (e.g., elderly) are generally provided the least, senior citizen homeowners are not exactly floating on a snowy cloud of excess cash.

up
Voting closed 18

The people who bought their homes for $40k back in the 80s/90s are hurting for cash? I doubt it.

up
Voting closed 11

You can own a house and still not have much money.

up
Voting closed 23

You can also be a multimillionaire and complain about not having much money.

Lots of rich people are cheapskates and try to get everything for free.

up
Voting closed 18

Seniors can already get a huge break on their property tax payments. There is no excuse to not arrange for a sidewalk to not be shoveled. It’s not like they are busy working 80 hour weeks. Make a phone call or send an email. That’s all it takes.

up
Voting closed 9

What's the phone number or email address for a reliable snow clearing person?

up
Voting closed 8

Senior citizen homeowner here, and I know at least half a dozen more in my immediate neighborhood. The college kids nearby barely even clear their own sidewalks, let alone hiring themselves out to shovel for us old folks.

up
Voting closed 22

You think the college kids own the buildings they live in?! It’s bad enough old people saddled them with global warming and the national debt. Now you are going to blame them for the inaction of their boomer landlords?

up
Voting closed 19

You saddled the youth with global warming and national debt all the same.

Do you look in the mirror when you write comments like this one.

up
Voting closed 13

I'd bet $1,000 his mom cuts his food for him and another $1,000 that she does the "airplane" thing and flies the food into his mouth while Kino giggles......

up
Voting closed 12

up
Voting closed 6

I tend not to badmouth my elders as a group.

For all I know, Kinopio is badmouthing his cohort, meaning he may as well be yelling into a mirror.

up
Voting closed 7

… their buildings.
Property owners are responsible for shoveling, not tenants. Slumlords aren’t known for upkeep.

up
Voting closed 14

A fair point, although these are mostly whole-house rentals, and a number of the landlords don't even live in Massachusetts.

up
Voting closed 9

How about having crews ready to shovel out sidewalks that are not shoveled, and charging the property owner for the service (not a fine). Unpaid charges, treat them like the registry does unpaid parking tickets. They will eventually collect the money. Fines do nothing and its the same places that never shovel.

up
Voting closed 10

Half the reason winter is miserable is because the sidewalks turn into slushy icy deer Path sized death traps . You can’t fit more than one person at a time. It’s awful.

up
Voting closed 15

Are we going back to the Montreal well again? Didn’t we learn our lesson back in 2015. Isn’t Montreal’s snow budget like 3x our snow budget? Where would that $ come from? Oh yea, a raise in our taxes or just as bad defunding other city services. I think something along the lines of higher fine/ lien/ bill could work. Meaning if you get a ticket, you have 24 hours to shovel. If that’s not done you get a bill/ lien attached to your property in exchange for the services rendered. I completely get that the elderly are having issues, that’s understandable but not ALL of the non shoveled properties are elderly. In fact I would estimate a very small percentage would fall into that category. More likely scenario is renters/ absentee landlords.

up
Voting closed 9

Is Montreal's budget actually 3x ours? Have a cite?

And is it 3x in absolute terms? Or normalized per storm and lane-mile?

up
Voting closed 8

Love this idea! The Canadian cities really do a great job with snow clean up. My Canadian cousins were shocked at the poor clean up during their visit. That being said, the City struggled to clean up the roads thus last storm. Mom used to say don’t add more food to your plate until you clear your plate

up
Voting closed 5

She is notorious for never showing up at local meetings on any topic. She also skipped A candidates forum that was held in the neighborhood during last year‘s campaign.

up
Voting closed 5

I don't blame her... Ever traveled between Dorchester and Allston-Brighton? (And I live in Allston-Brighton.)

up
Voting closed 8