Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


I miss Montreal

seattle bus stuck in snow.jpg
When Seattle is covered in snow, it’s easy to miss Montreal. Now, folks in areas that get lots of snow like to make fun of Seattlites for being unable to handle a little snow, [link to no longer works] but it turns out that there’s another reason (beyond the steep hills) the city has a (ahem) unique approach: “Seattle refuses to use salt; roads “snow packed” by design:” [link to no longer works]

But it turns out “plowed streets” in Seattle actually means “snow-packed,” as in there’s snow and ice left on major arterials by design. “We’re trying to create a hard-packed surface,” said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. “It doesn’t look like anything you’d find in Chicago or New York.”

[That’s right Chief Wiggins–you’d be fired if you tried that in Chicago or New York–Ed.]

That leaves many drivers, including Seattle police, pretty much on their own until nature does to the snow what the sand can’t: melt it. The city’s patrol cars are rear-wheel drive. And even with tire chains, officers are avoiding hills and responding on foot, according to a West Precinct officer.

Anyway, after what seems like a solid ten days of continuous snow, it’s 40F/4C and the snow is melting.

[Update: “After storm of criticism, Seattle mayor reverses no-salt policy for snow.”] [link to no longer works]

4 comments on "I miss Montreal"

  • Chris says:

    Heh. It’s 56F in Chicago. Mmmm…mud!
    Chicago uses, IMO, too much salt. This is due entirely to Mayor Bilandic becoming ex-Mayor Bilandic when he didn’t respond quickly to a blizzard. The oddity of this is that Streets and San is a well-known patronage haven, so handing out OT would seem a sensible strategy.
    That said, not using at least sand seems kinda dopey, especially if (unlike Chicago) your terrain is not like a pool table. After all, a hockey rink is hard as hell, but I wouldn’t want to drive on one.

  • tim says:

    There is so much fail with Seattles approach I don’t know where to begin…

    The city’s approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said.

    I take away from that comment they want their citizens to buy gas-guzzling SUVs as well as to employ methods of ripping apart your roads by the use of chains. Good lord – what is this 1954?
    In addition – Salt is MORE environmentally friendly than sand since sand fills up creeks and wetlands. Sand is also a royal pain to remove in the spring. Salt is cheaper and there are methods developed to minimize salt getting into creeks and lakes.
    Here in Minneapolis – snow is removed from all main roads within 24 hours. Within 72 hours – all streets are plowed (and cars towed if they are in the way). Main streets are regularly salted although I know sand is used on less used residential roads since they are plowed later. And guess what – we a good chunk of our city council are members of the green party and they don’t seem to have a problem with it (perhaps they are too busy trying to ban circus elephants)

  • AlexCV says:

    Maybe they can borrow Montreal’s stockpile… [link no longer works]

  • Winfried says:

    Well, here in the Netherlands a lot of salt is used in the winter and it is harmful: alongside the highways there are plants growing that normally only live in the dunes along the coast of the salty North-Sea.
    And the saltless alternative might not be so bad after all: Some years ago I lived some time in Finland. There they didn’t use salt at all, but cleared the roads of loose snow and put grit on the compacted under-layer of snow. No problems at all that way.

Comments are closed.