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Winter Walking and Cycling
Not to mention dealing with properties with different amounts of sidewalks.
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(02-07-2018, 02:11 PM)MidTowner Wrote: It would actually increase total costs to somehow avoid the "opting-out" properties. What would the snow plow do, lift its blade as it passed them? There would still be a time cost.

It’s only a semi-serious proposal. It’s basically, “fine, you’re whining about increased taxes, you can opt out”, calling their bluff. Then when they notice that their neighbours don’t have to shovel and they do, they’ll quickly realize that opting out is a stupid thing to do.

As to implementation, yes, the plow would literally lift its blade exactly at the property line. This already happens in some areas now, where city-cleared sidewalks are on either side of a short row of houses (e.g., park next to houses next to trail entrance).

If opting out were a reasonable choice so that a significant percentage of properties were opted out I agree the efficiency would drop but my assumption is that it would be a tiny number of properties because given an actual choice between paying $30 and shovelling all winter I think almost everybody would pick the $30. Note too that I would do it as an opt-out: you can get a tax refund if you tell them you want to handle your own shovelling.

And then of course bylaw would visit every single opted-out property (easy, since there wouldn’t be very many) and fine them as soon as possible if they didn't do as good a job as the plow.
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(02-07-2018, 05:04 PM)ijmorlan Wrote:
(02-07-2018, 02:11 PM)MidTowner Wrote: It would actually increase total costs to somehow avoid the "opting-out" properties. What would the snow plow do, lift its blade as it passed them? There would still be a time cost.

It’s only a semi-serious proposal. It’s basically, “fine, you’re whining about increased taxes, you can opt out”, calling their bluff. Then when they notice that their neighbours don’t have to shovel and they do, they’ll quickly realize that opting out is a stupid thing to do.

As to implementation, yes, the plow would literally lift its blade exactly at the property line. This already happens in some areas now, where city-cleared sidewalks are on either side of a short row of houses (e.g., park next to houses next to trail entrance).

If opting out were a reasonable choice so that a significant percentage of properties were opted out I agree the efficiency would drop but my assumption is that it would be a tiny number of properties because given an actual choice between paying $30 and shovelling all winter I think almost everybody would pick the $30. Note too that I would do it as an opt-out: you can get a tax refund if you tell them you want to handle your own shovelling.

And then of course bylaw would visit every single opted-out property (easy, since there wouldn’t be very many) and fine them as soon as possible if they didn't do as good a job as the plow.

I do think you're underestimating the number of people who value the marginal increase in effort to shovel their sidewalk and driveway instead of just their driveway at zero.

But hard to say for sure.

What I do know, is no matter how many people opted out, this would still result in better clearing because main routes and bus routes would be cleared much more quickly, as those are more likely to be commercial and industrial locations who pay for clearing.

The point is, our system sucks in pretty much every way possible.
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(02-07-2018, 06:52 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: I do think you're underestimating the number of people who value the marginal increase in effort to shovel their sidewalk and driveway instead of just their driveway at zero.

But hard to say for sure.

What I do know, is no matter how many people opted out, this would still result in better clearing because main routes and bus routes would be cleared much more quickly, as those are more likely to be commercial and industrial locations who pay for clearing.

The point is, our system sucks in pretty much every way possible.

Good point. I always think about the sidewalk but for most people it’s just a fraction of the area they need to clear — not because they are required to do so, but because they want a passable driveway and front walk. Still, I think the opt-out percentage would be small.

Anecdatum: somebody at work was saying something about shovelling or maybe just a general comment about the snow. I asked if she would pay $30 to have somebody shovel the sidewalk all winter. Without me saying anything about this debate, she said that the city should absolutely handle the sidewalk clearing and she would have no problem with the corresponding tax increase. Now to ask 500 randomly-selected people that question and tabulate the responses.
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It's amazing how this one issue is such a battle to discuss or push through, but we literally don't question the other thousands of things we pay taxes for. Why?
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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(02-07-2018, 09:08 PM)Canard Wrote: It's amazing how this one issue is such a battle to discuss or push through, but we literally don't question the other thousands of things we pay taxes for.  Why?

Because it would be an increase in taxes.

Tax increases (even if they provide additional services) and service reductions (even if they reduce taxes) always cause pushback.
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What do we fear? Change!

Why do we fear it? *rabble**rabble**rabble**rabble**rabble*
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(02-08-2018, 12:50 PM)tomh009 Wrote:
(02-07-2018, 09:08 PM)Canard Wrote: It's amazing how this one issue is such a battle to discuss or push through, but we literally don't question the other thousands of things we pay taxes for.  Why?

Because it would be an increase in taxes.

Tax increases (even if they provide additional services) and service reductions (even if they reduce taxes) always cause pushback.

My point is that it’s not really a tax increase. Well, OK, if you count as a “tax” only the money the property owner is required to pay to the City, fine, it’s a tax increase. But right now the property owner’s obligation to the City consists of paying property taxes and shovelling the sidewalk:

$t + $s

Where $s is the money value expended to shovel the sidewalk for an entire winter. The proposal on the table is, roughly speaking, to replace this obligation with a money-only obligation:

$t + $30

($30 roughly based on a round-number version of numbers that have appeared in relevant studies of the cost of municipal sidewalk clearing)

Anybody for whom $s > $30 will see this as a reduction in their city burden. And I claim this is pretty much everybody; even for people earning minimum wage they’ll make the $30 in just a couple of hours; when was the last winter you could spend less than 2 hours over the whole winter shovelling the sidewalk?

This is what I mean when I say this is a tax reduction. And I do think it should be sold as a reduction in total burden on the property owner. This is also why I consider most opposition to be pretty much invalid. If I think we should have more skating rinks (for example) and somebody disagrees, I can’t really say their opinion is “invalid”; it’s perfectly legitimate to think that the cost of additional skating rinks is not something we should all be paying for. But it’s not valid to complain that something is too expensive when it reduces the (total) cost.

Having said all this, you’re fundamentally right. Politicians are rightly afraid of being seen as tax-increasers, no matter how meritorious the proposed spending.
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Don't forget that this would also be a property tax increase for everyone, including people who don't have sidewalks to clear. It seems to me that people who live in apartments and condos would get these costs passed onto them disproportionately compared to single detached home owners.
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I have a fairly wide frontage on my house, which on average takes about a minute to clear the snow. On the rare occasion we get a heavy snowfall it will take at most 5 minutes to clear. Hardly a large time commitment. Is there a higher proportion of sidewalks not being cleared in the core? Are a large percentage of these rental properties where the landlord leaves it up to the renter to clear and the renter chooses not to do so? Not questioning the idea of the city clearing sidewalks. Just curious!
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(02-08-2018, 01:23 PM)ijmorlan Wrote: My point is that it’s not really a tax increase. Well, OK, if you count as a “tax” only the money the property owner is required to pay to the City, fine, it’s a tax increase. But right now the property owner’s obligation to the City consists of paying property taxes and shovelling the sidewalk:

You're far more logical than most people. Tax increases often end up being decided on emotion rather than logic.
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(02-08-2018, 02:04 PM)timc Wrote: Don't forget that this would also be a property tax increase for everyone, including people who don't have sidewalks to clear. It seems to me that people who live in apartments and condos would get these costs passed onto them disproportionately compared to single detached home owners.

Condos, apartments and commercial properties typically have contracts with snow removal companies, which includes the sidewalks. A 200-unit condo might take a $5000 hit on the property taxes, which may well be more than the entire snow removal cost for the season.

That said, condo dwellers are also more likely to be walking than suburbanites, so they might value clear sidewalks enough to accept the tax increase even if the condo building itself ends up overpaying.
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(02-08-2018, 01:23 PM)ijmorlan Wrote: Having said all this, you’re fundamentally right. Politicians are rightly afraid of being seen as tax-increasers, no matter how meritorious the proposed spending.

Indeed. If the cost to the city of clearing sidewalks was more than offset by the reduction in slip-and-fall suit payments that the city pays out, people would still see it as a tax increase (even as math proves otherwise). We already experience this by having a lot of research showing that the costs associated with one homeless person (police, medical, etc) are greater than the costs associated with a housed homeless person (police, medical, etc., have been shown to be reduced by more than the cost of housing provided), yet we will gladly pay the higher, former cost, claiming it was "unavoidable", and complain about paying the lower, latter cost, because it "wasn't necessary, it was a choice to spend money."
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Winter cycling story in the Record:
https://www.therecord.com/news-story/812...d-cycling/
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I just came across the Ion's service standards for snow removal at the stations. Looks like the region negotiated much a better standard that has some teeth (penalties) - although it is for a limited number of stops, not like the 100s of GRT stops.

As far as I can tell response time is the time to identify the problem (snow/ice accumulation) and assign the work to someone. Rectification is the time to resolve the problem (snow accumulation).

   
   
Everyone move to the back of the bus and we all get home faster.
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