As Mayor R.T. Rybak nears the end of his last term, it’s striking how much city residents are talking about their gripes in one area that office-seeker Rybak highlighted in 2001 as an area for improvement: plowing snow.
Rybak’s 90-day plan for taking office called for taking initial steps toward 24-hour plowing. That idea lasted longer that his coolness to a new Twins ballpark, which began melting the same month he was elected, but Rybak couldn’t persuade the council to revamp the plowing schedule and left 24-hour plowing out of his first budget. He said a series of community meetings gave him the feedback that pursuing the idea was wrong, especially in areas without sufficient garages or parking. Plus, 24-hour plowing would have left half of city streets available parking at a time, instead of the current one-third.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been some tweaks in plowing since the mayor took office. The most notable is modifying rules to allow people to park on a side of the street as soon as it has been “fully plowed,” instead of waiting until that side’s no-parking period expired.
Cynics question whether snow is ever fully plowed, noting that the edge of plowed snow often creeps several feet out from the curb as winter lengthens. That could be in part due to another change in recent years that’s saved the city money. Public Works honchos are using more plow drivers who are shifted from other duties such as sewer, water or garbage services and hold the necessary truck license. Some experienced plow drivers say that makes a difference in how well snow is plowed, but the city says it can get by with fewer dedicated plow drivers that way.
Rybak made towing for snow removal the pilot topic for his statistical measurement system that evolved into Results Minneapolis. Although that study found geographic inequities in neighborhoods where vehicles were towed more frequently, one bright idea for relieving that issues – using SNOasis private lots temporarily – didn’t last long.
Still-common plowing complaints often focus on the ridges that plows leave behind, sealing a driveway or corner, despite the availability of plow gates that can minimize such barriers. One Como area property owner who is pushing 70 said she had to clear ridges four separate times last week.
If you’d like to vent, or just read what others say about plowing, go to the city’s snow emergency Facebook page.