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.