Common questions

What's new for the 2021-22 winter season?

This winter season the municipality is implementing two zones for the overnight parking ban: Zone 1 – Central and Zone 2 – Non-Central

Zone 1 – Central refers to the Halifax Peninsula and downtown Dartmouth within Highway 111 (the Circumferential Highway) and some surrounding areas.

Zone 2 – Non-Central is a designated area outside of Zone 1 – Central

It’s important to note that with the introduction of the two zones, the following parking ban scenarios may occur during, or following, a declared weather event: 

•    Municipal overnight winter parking ban is being enforced/has been lifted (both Zone 1 – Central and Zone 2 – Non-Central)
•    Zone 1 – Central overnight winter parking ban is being enforced/has been lifted 
•    Zone 2 – Non-Central overnight winter parking ban is being enforced/has been lifted 
•    Zone 1 – Central overnight winter parking ban has been lifted, but will continue to be enforced in Zone 2 – Non-Central 
•    Zone 2 – Non-Central overnight winter parking ban has been lifted, but will continue to be enforced in Zone 1 – Central

In previous winter seasons, targeted snow removal in certain downtown areas was required when the overnight winter parking ban was not enforced. The change to create two zones will improve service delivery by leveraging overnight winter parking bans that can accommodate more targeted snow removal.

Residents are able to determine what zone they’re in by searching their address using the interactive tool available here or via the map below.

Overnight winter parking bans will continue to be communicated to residents via public service announcementshfxALERThalifax.ca and @hfxgov on Twitter. Residents who are signed up for hfxALERT will continue to receive notifications for all overnight winter parking ban scenarios. 

How do I know which zone I'm in? 

Residents are able to determine which zone they’re in by searching their address using the interactive map available here.

How do I know when the parking ban is in effect?

The Halifax Regional Municipality has an overnight winter parking ban which is in effect every year from Dec. 15 until Mar. 31. The easiest way to know when the parking ban will be enforced is to register for notifications through hfxALERT. Residents who have registered for hfxALERT will receive timely messages by phone, email, and/ or text message about the status of the parking ban.

The municipality shares information on its Service Updates page and via Twitter, using @hfxgov. Residents can also call 311.

When will my street be plowed?

Check the street clearing timelines chart to find out when clearing should take place in your area.

Crews prioritize which streets to salt, sand or plow first based on service standards approved by Regional Council.

Priority 1 streets include:

  • Main arterials
  • Major bus routes
  • Roads with steep inclines
  • Emergency routes to hospitals and streets leading to schools and public buildings.

Priority 2 routes include:

  • Residential and rural routes with medium to low volume traffic
  • Gravel roads
  • Private lanes that fall under the municipality’s responsibility

Crews focus first on the Priority 1 streets and then “cut-throughs” on Priority 2 streets. Cut-throughs are when a single lane is plowed in the middle of the street, often during significant snow events, as an interim measure until crews can complete full street-width clearing. These cut-throughs allow access for emergency vehicles, if required and for residents to get to and from their homes. It also allows residents to move vehicles from the street which would otherwise obstruct snow clearing efforts.

Residents are asked to be patient and know that crews will not stop working until all streets and sidewalks have been cleared.

When will my sidewalk be plowed?

Check the sidewalk clearing timelines chart to find out when clearing should be finished in your area.

The service standards state that Priority 1 sidewalks, those intersecting with main roads, should be cleared within 12 hours of a weather event. Priority 2 sidewalks, along transit routes and in front of schools, are cleared within 18 hours and Priority 3 sidewalks, along local roads, are cleared within 36 hours.

When will bus stops be plowed?

Check the sidewalk clearing timelines chart to find out when clearing of bus stops should be finished in your area.

When will bike lanes be plowed?

Bike lanes that are designated with a painted line are serviced to the same timeframe as the associated street. Protected bike lanes are serviced at the same time as the associated sidewalk. Check the timelines for clearing streets and sidewalks.

During significant snowfalls, crews may temporarily deposit snow into bike lanes due to limited storage space. Snow will be cleared from bike lanes as soon as crews are able to make space available. 

Similar to motorists and pedestrians, whenever possible, cyclists should avoid using the roads in the hours immediately following a snow or ice event

When will accessible parking spaces be plowed?

Most accessible parking spaces aren’t fully cleared until all streets are complete. Much of this work is done after hours. Residents with accessible parking passes are encouraged to find off-street parking during and after a storm, to allow crews to access the spaces.

How much does it cost if my vehicle is towed? 

The cost to tow a vehicle is based on a number of factors and prices may vary. The average cost of a tow could increase by as much as $75 this season if your vehicle needs to be dug out of the snow before being towed. 

Does the overnight winter parking ban apply to my vehicle if it’s parked outside Zone 1 – Central and Zone 2 – Non-Central?

Provincial overnight winter parking restrictions may exist in areas that fall outside of the municipal overnight winter parking ban enforcement boundary. Regardless of the status of an overnight winter parking ban, or whether you have received a notification, vehicles can be ticketed or towed, day or night, at any time of year, if they are interfering with snow-clearing operations, as per Section 139 of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act.
 

Are patios permitted to operate this winter?

Regional Council has given second reading to By-law S-1003 to amend By-law S-1000, Respecting the Regulation of Sidewalk Cafes. 

The new By-law S-1003 gives current seasonal sidewalk café license holders the opportunity to apply for an annual sidewalk café license. The new license allows patios to operate all year long.

Will winter patios be serviced by municipal snow clearing equipment?

Individual businesses are required to clear and maintain their own infrastructure while ensuring accessibility is maintained at all times.

Is anyone allowed to clear snow into the streets?

It is against By-Law S-300 to throw or pile snow in the street or on the sidewalk. This is a serious problem that can cause safety issues for pedestrians and other users as it complicates clearing for crews. When this happens, crews are often forced to double back, delaying service on the rest of their routes. The municipality has enhanced enforcement in place to address non-compliance with the By-Law.  Individuals are expected to pile snow on their own property.  Violations of By-law S-300 may result in a summary offense ticket of no less than $100.00.  Residents can ContactUs@311.halifax.ca or call 311 to report violations.

What steps have been taken by the municipality to improve service and accountability this season?

Winter operations service enhancements focused on improving accessibility and mobility, timely communication of weather event information before, during and after a storm and new equipment to better manage a variety of weather conditions.

Who is responsible for damage caused by snow-clearing equipment?

Contractors who plow the streets and sidewalks are responsible for repairing any damage caused by their equipment. The municipality is responsible for damage caused by municipally-owned clearing equipment. 

Residents who have sustained damage to their property or know of damage to municipal property should report the damage as soon as possible by emailing ContactUs@311.halifax.ca or calling 311 . Unless there is an immediate safety concern, most damage will be repaired in the spring, when weather has improved.

What can I do to protect my property from damage and ensure clearing goes as safely and smoothly as possible?

  • Remove planters, lawn decorations and any other portable objects near the sidewalk before the winter.
  • When bad weather is in the forecast, safely store Items that may still be used during the winter (e.g. sports equipment).
  • Mark any permanent structures or objects with a reflector that will be visible above the snow. This helps crews identify obstacles.
  • Trim any tree branches and shrubs that originate from your property. These can obstruct access and visibility for snow-clearing equipment.
  • Never park on the sidewalk and when parked in a driveway, make sure your vehicle isn't hanging over into the right-of-way. These vehicles are dangerous obstacles for crews and prevents proper clearing of sidewalks. NOTE: Vehicles obstructing snow clearing efforts can be ticketed and towed.

What should I do during and after a winter storm?

Residents are asked to stay home, if possible, whenever there is a major snowfall in the forecast. If there is a parking ban in effect, remove cars from the street or they will be ticketed or towed. This is important to facilitate efficient and safe clearing and ensure access for emergency vehicles.

If you must put out garbage, recycling or green bins during or after a storm, please ensure they don’t interfere with street or sidewalk snow plowing. If you’re unsure whether waste collection will happen, check online for the status of municipal services or call 311

Check out a few winter safety tips.

How do crews choose the equipment they use to clear the sidewalks?

Sidewalks are cleared by either an in-house crew or a contractor. In its contracts, the municipality identifies any known trouble spots that require special equipment or hand shovelling. Otherwise, the choice of equipment is up to the contractor.

My street isn't cleared yet. What if emergency vehicles need access?

In the event of an emergency, 911 dispatchers will be in touch with municipal snow-clearing crews to ensure emergency vehicles have an efficient and accessible route.

Who is responsible for clearing the sidewalks? 

The municipality is responsible for clearing all public sidewalks in the Halifax region. That means crews are responsible for clearing 3,844 lane kilometres of roads, about 1,000 kilometres of sidewalks and walkways and approximately 2,300 bus stops. Residents and businesses are responsible for clearing their own driveways and pathways, including any snow that has been plowed in.

Who is responsible for clearing fire hydrants?

Halifax Water is responsible for clearing snow away from fire hydrants, within its service area. Residents and business owners can locate fire hydrants in their area using this interactive map. Residents are encouraged to clear the snow away if they can safely do so. The help is greatly appreciated and could save time in the event of an emergency. Maintenance of private hydrants, including snow removal, remains the responsibility of the hydrant owner.

Who is responsible for clearing catch basins?

Catch basins are the municipality’s responsibility. These drains, located along the edge of the road, are typically opened as the street is cleared. There are more than 29,000 catch basins in the region and so crews may not be able to clear all locations when there is rain or significant melting expected. Residents and business owners can locate catch basins in their area using this interactive map. Once located, if residents can safely clear the snow away, they are encouraged to do so. This will help to reduce instances of flooding on public and private property. 

When can I park on the street?

The Halifax Regional Municipality has an overnight winter parking ban which is in effect every year from Dec. 15 until Mar. 31; however, it is only enforced during declared weather events and clearing operations. When the ban is enforced, it restricts any on-street parking between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Vehicles in violation of the ban will be ticketed and/or towed.

Regardless of the status of an overnight winter parking ban, or whether you have received a notification, vehicles can be towed, day or night, at any time of year, if they are interfering with snow-clearing operations, as per Section 139 of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act.

NOTE: Vehicles can be towed any time during the day or night, any day of the year, if they are interfering with snow-clearing operations, as per Section 139 of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act.

Why does the plow push snow in my driveway? Who will clear it?

The plow often makes several passes to push the snow back to open catch basins and provide access for emergency vehicles. This means that snow may be pushed into your driveway. This is necessary to help keep the streets safe and clear. Shovelling driveways is the responsibility of residents. 

Are there programs to help seniors and people with disabilities with snow removal?

The Halifax Regional Municipality partners with the YMCA to provide the Snow Removal Program for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities program, which assists participants with snow removal from steps and walkways during the winter months.

Those who qualify for the program will have snow removed from their front steps, walkways, back steps and a path to an oil tank, if applicable. To find out more about this program and how to apply, please call the YMCA at 902.483.3678 or visit the YMCA online.

Why do operators sometimes plow one lane only?

When traffic is heavy on the main arteries, plows often focus on less busy secondary routes, making an initial pass in and out. Once traffic dissipates, they complete the main roads and return later to finish the secondary streets, pushing the snow back to the curb.

Why doesn't the plow do a better job clearing cul-de-sacs?

These areas present a unique challenge for snow-clearing operations. Whenever possible, a smaller plow is used to clean up the cul-de-sac and, when required, a front-end loader is used to complete the clearing. This type of equipment is first used for the clearing of main arterial routes and other priority areas. Depending on scheduled work and equipment availability, crews attempt to clear the accumulated snow once a significant amount has built up. 

What is brine?

Brine is a solution made of salt (sodium chloride) and water and acts as an anti-icing agent to prevent the bond between snow and pavement.

Why does the municipality spray a liquid salt solution on the roads?

Direct Liquid Application (DLA), a technique using brine (salt water solution), is part of the municipality’s overall salt management strategy. Whether sprayed directly on the road surface or produced when rock salt is mixed with fallen snow, brine acts as an anti-icing agent to prevent the bond between snow and pavement. This allows the snow plow to more easily remove the excess snow easier.

What is the difference between anti-icing and de-icing?

Anti-icing is a proactive approach used to decrease the likelihood of snow, ice and frost bonding to road surfaces. Anti-icing involves putting a layer of brine on pavement surfaces prior to a winter storm.

Anti-icing is usually performed using large trucks that spray brine directly onto road surfaces. Brine is typically applied at rates of between 80 and 100 litres per lane kilometre.

The alternative is de-icing. De-icing involves waiting until the snow and ice have bonded to the road and then applying rock salt to break the bond.

Studies have shown that anti-icing will achieve the same level of service as de-icing while using as little as one-fifth of the amount of salt, which results in cost savings for the municipality and less salt impacting the local environment.

Doesn’t brine just freeze when applied to a cold road?

The short answer to this question is - no.

Brine is typically 23.3 per cent sodium chloride when applied. Although that means 76.7 per cent of the mixture is water, the solution has a lower freezing point than water alone. When brine is applied at the concentration noted above, it won’t freeze (without any additional dilution) until about -21° C.

Is the municipality ever in danger of running out of salt?

The municipality has three salt domes in the region, each with a capacity of up to 7,000 tonnes. At any given time, our municipal and contracted crews have access to between 18,000 and 20,000 tonnes of salt. Our supply is regularly renewed with loads from Canadian Salt Co. Ltd., in Pugwash.

Who do I contact with questions or concerns about snow clearing?

Residents are advised that if they contact 311 about snow or ice removal on a street or sidewalk while crews are still within the service standard timelines, their inquiry will not be dispatched for service, as it is expected crews will get to the area as they’re able. More information about when to call 311 with a concern regarding snow clearing.

Where can I go for updates from the municipality during a winter storm?

Snow clearing updates will be posted on the service updates page and via @hfxgov on Twitter during declared weather events.

For minor (0-5 cm) and average (5-15 cm) winter events, snow clearing updates will be posted three times a day: 7 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. on the service updates page and via @hfxgov on Twitter. For major events (15+ cm accumulation), updates will be posted four times a day: 7 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Please note: Additional updates may be posted outside of these times as required.