As we do at this time of year, Sudbury.com (and every other city media outlet) is all about potholes. The city is all about potholes. Potholes invariably are mentioned in comments on our website and letters to the editor.
From what we’re hearing from mechanics (look for a story on that in the coming days), this has been one of the worst pothole seasons on record, based on anecdotal reports of the number of vehicles suffering damage.
As they are every spring, potholes are all anyone is talking about. And well it is. Complaining about our roads is a Sudbury pastime. I would argue it is a pastime for the citizens of most Canadian cities of any size.
On that note, CAA kicked off its annual Worst Roads campaign this week. The fact that we have such a campaign and that it has been running every year since 2003 is a pretty clear indication bad roads are a common problem across Ontario.
This year, the campaign included survey information showing a full 70 per cent of respondents were unhappy with the state of their local roads. And 60 per cent felt roads weren’t being repaired in a timely manner.
Greater Sudbury roads consistently make the final list of the worst roads, often with one or two among the top 10, along with other amalgamated cities, like Toronto.
There are many things that make Sudbury unique, but bad roads aren’t one of them. I can hear you saying, “But nobody’s roads are as bad as ours.” Maybe, maybe not. I’ve been to enough northern cities, though, to know we’re not special when it comes to our roads.
Actually, let me clarify that. Bad roads don’t make us unique, but perhaps the number of bad roads do. See, we do have a problem that other northern cities don’t have — we have far, far more roads than anyone else.
As I never tire of saying, there’s enough lane kilometres of road in the Nickel City that, stretched out, you could drive from St. John’s to Sault Ste. Marie. Sudbury’s road very well could be the worst in the North. That’s a lot of road to maintain.
Certainly, our taxpayer-to-lane-kilometre ratio is much lower than most other cities. We’re too darn big and too darn small at the same time. What’s an amalgamated city to do? (That’s not a rhetorical question. Greater Sudbury has more expenses than our tax base can support. Taxes can only be raised so high. We’re in a real quandary here.)
At Northern Life / Sudbury.com, we don’t have a solution to the roads issue, except maybe reverting to gravel. At least then we could grade them relatively flat for a fraction of the cost. Since gravel isn’t a viable option, we went in another direction.
We partnered with Fuel Media in Sudbury to create an online app that makes it easier to report potholes to the city. And because we’re so creative, we gave it the on-the-nose moniker of the Pothole Reporter. You can find it online at Pothole.Sudbury.com.
We figured rather than just complaining about the holes, why not help the city out by telling them exactly where they are? The more eyes watching, the better. It’s the ‘loose lips sink ships’ adage from the Second World War turned on its head. How about ‘loose lips fill pits’? Or something better.
You can find a story and a video on how to use the app on Sudbury.com, but honestly it’s very easy to use. You simply fill in some boxes. There’s nothing to download. The app even includes a map showing where pothole reports are clustered.
Rather than simply complaining, complain constructively. Complain with the Pothole Reporter. At least then, you know someone will be listening, because legally, they have to.
Mark Gentili is the editor of Sudbury.com and Northern Life.