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Feeling the effects of “zero means zero”

September 25, 2008 @ 17:01 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

Several stories in this morning’s Ottawa Metro caught my eye

  • page 1: Snow go for stop study: City holds off review of winter bus stop maintenance
  • page 3: City nixes ‘pothole patrol’: Seven extra road-checking staff would cost $1 million
  • page 3: Policing: Ward-by-ward crime statistics will not be coming out this year, but improved data has been promised for 2009.

Are we starting to see the true effects of Larry O’Brien’s “zero means zero” plan?

According to the first story, to increase the frequency which bus stops are maintained during the winter from once a day to two or four times/day would cost between $4.1 million and $8.2 million, depending on the frequency.  Clearing them four times/day would require an additional 104 pieces of equipment.  So, rather than clear them more frequently passengers are probably going to have to climb over big piles of snow, which strikes me as a safety hazard when there’s a lot of snow that’s built up.

The second story reports that roads in Ottawa are not inspected frequently enough to meet even the minimum provincial road inspection standards.  Instead, existing city staff that drive as part of their jobs as well as OC Transpo drivers are apparently “just as effective” in reporting road damage such as potholes.

There’s more to inspecting a road than just looking for potholes.  Inspectors are concerned with more than just the suface.  They’ve had specific training and they may even be engineers who can make accurate assessments as to the condition of a road.

Let’s face it: roads are expensive.  The cost to replace a section of road can easily cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.  So, you don’t want to replace them too early because that’s a waste of money.  Nor do you want to let roads deteriorate to the point where they have to be replaced because you didn’t spend a little money fixing a problem that would have deferred replacement for several years.

Nothing against bus drivers, but I don’t think they’re qualified to make these assessments.

With respect to the last story, one has to wonder exactly how much is being “saved” by not producing detailed crime statistics and what effect this lack of detail is going to have on community-level policing.  Will they be able to make accurate assessments of where the problem spots are without the quantitative data?  Are problem spots going to go unaddressed as a result?

Time will tell, I guess.

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