The City of Montreal plans to use a mix of better coordination and new technologies to improve its snow-removal operations this winter – without increasing its budget.

In preparation for the snowy season, the city held a news conference Thursday to lay out its plan, saying last year's record snowfall is forcing the administration to re-think how it responds to massive accumulation.

Last year, the city had to remove 50 per cent more snow than usual, leading to some tense situations as boroughs scrambled to find somehow to dump it all.

Last winter, 238 centimetres of snow fell on Montreal, far above the average of 190 centimetres. That represents a total volume of 18.4 million square metres and seven snow loads, two more than average.

Because of the exceptional situation, city council said it has made plans to centralize its snow-clearing operations further this winter, all while sticking to the $190 million snow-clearing budget.

The city promises it will update the Info-Neige app, which guides people in real-time about snow removal on city streets. The app will be improved to allow users to report a poorly cleared street or sidewalk, incorrect sign or a slippery roadway or sidewalk in front of schools, hospitals and bus stops.

“The city's digital shift opens the door to a host of new opportunities to make everyday life easier, and I'm proud to see that we're finding effective and innovative ways to apply it to snow management, which is part of our reality several months a year,” said the city’s Smart City manager Francois Croteau in a statement.

Placing priority on icy sidewalks

It is also going to focus on icy sidewalks by dramatically increasing the quantity of salt. It has also purchased eight new machines specifically designed to break the ice and make use of sidewalks much easier.

Boroughs will be tasked with operating the machines, and the city said it would considerably diminish cases where sidewalks become too dangerous for people to use.

The number of complaints over icy falls in Montreal reached a two-year high last season.

Snow dump sites

As for snow dumps, the city will increase the size of the LaSalle snow dump site, though it will not be able to use the former Blue Bonnets grounds this season.

They said they also purchased drones to help them optimize space for snow dumping at sites.

"We will use the maximum of the capacity on the site," said executive committee member Jean-Francois Parenteau.

Flexibility is key

The key, said Parenteau, is for the city to be ready for anything.

“Every winter and every storm is unique. The key is to adapt to the reality of the field and to intervene quickly,” he said in a statement. “That's why we count on the collaboration of all the boroughs, who are responsible for the operations of clearing and spreading on their territory, to quickly secure the streets and sidewalks following precipitation. Citizen participation is also essential to the proper functioning of operations, and we count on them to respect parking prohibitions and remain vigilant when approaching snow removal vehicles.”

Highway snow removal to become more efficient

Transport Quebec said it is reducing the number of contracts it hands out to contractors and will instead rely on its own staff and equipment.

"We are buying trucks, because we need these trucks," said Gilles Payer of Transport Quebec. "We are hiring some people. We have more technologies in trucks."

The provincial body maintains more than 3,100 kilometres of roads in the Montreal area. Its $36.5 million snow-removal budget includes 210 snow removal trucks and the use of more than 125,000 tonnes of salt – that’s the equivalent to 9.5 football fields covered with 1 metre of salt. It also has more than 25,000 tonnes of abrasives, the equivalent of 2.5 football fields covered with 1 metre of abrasive.

Payer said crews are prepared to handle snow and ice on highways and major arteries that fall under their jurisdiction.

"We have more trucks, more salt - we are ready," he said.

Drivers should be ready

Transport Quebec also said that with the arrival on November, drivers should begin to adapt their habits to winter conditions. That means preparing to change to their winter tires ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline, and ensuring they store in their cars essential items like winter windshield wiper fluid, snow brooms, an emergency kit, extra warm clothing, a water bottle and cereal bars.