Calgarians unhappy with road upkeep
Calgarians are increasingly displeased with municipal snow clearing and road maintenance services, according to the latest edition of the city’s annual citizen satisfaction survey.
Satisfaction with Calgary’s roads-related maintenance dropped by nine percentage points over the previous year, while attitudes toward snow clearing saw a similar plunge, in a phone survey of 2,500 adults conducted in August and September.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi acknowledged the poor reviews on snow clearing Wednesday, suggesting that council has already agreed the city will have to do better.
“This is very, very expected given the winter that we had and council has already invested money in increased snow removal, particularly for pedestrians on sidewalks and pathways,” Nenshi said Wednesday, adding Calgary ’s road conditions still compare favourably to other cities.
“I would say our road maintenance index is probably the best anywhere. I drive in a lot of cities and I think our crews did an amazing job of filling all those potholes this year.”
Council chose last June to spend an additional $9 million in each of the next two years to clear snow from sidewalks and pathways, largely in response to complaints from pedestrians.
Calgary has traditionally spent less money on sidewalks, clearing just 10 per cent of its public sidewalks, compared with 25 per cent in Edmonton and 75 per cent in Toronto. Ottawa and Winnipeg clear all public sidewalks.
Next week, council will get the chance to evaluate snow-clearing budgets.
Beyond the already approved funds for sidewalk clearing, city administration isn’t recommending any additional operating funds for snow and ice control.
The city said Wednesday the annual survey, conducted by Ipsos, assists council in making budgetary decisions based on Calgarians’ satisfaction levels with more than two dozen city services. The survey also asks residents to identify areas where the city should spend more or less money.
Beyond road and transportation concerns, Calgarians said they were looking for improvements to Calgary Transit and residential garbage collection; the survey captured a two-point drop in satisfaction with the city’s blue cart program this fall.
Downtown revitalization, as well as investments in police and fire services, were also identified as priorities.
When it comes to whether the city should cut services to lower taxes or increase taxes to maintain or expand services, Calgarians were narrowly divided for the second year in a row. Previous surveys conducted by Ipsos showed antitax sentiment peaking last spring.
The latest figures suggest around 43 per cent of Calgarians would support cutting services to reduce taxes, compared with 52 per cent in favour of increasing taxes to maintain or expand service levels.
“When the economy got very, very bad, people started to say, ‘maybe you need to start cutting services’ — but it never got above 50 per cent,” Nenshi said Wednesday.
“Now we’re seeing a divergence again of people saying, ‘you’ve got to invest in services.’ “
The mayor said he agrees with the recommendation made by city administration to hike residential property taxes by 3.45 per cent next year, with further hikes of three per cent for each of the next three years.
The hikes wouldn’t amount to much more than the cost of inflation plus population growth, Nenshi said.
“We have to be realistic and we want to let people into the conversation that council has to have, which is how do you make these actual tough trade-offs?” Nenshi said.
“That is the balance that council always has to try and figure out.”
This is ... expected given the winter that we had and council has already invested money in increased snow removal.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi acknowledged the poor reviews on snow clearing Wednesday, but noted the city has increased funds for the service and Calgary’s road conditions compare favourably to other cities.