Boston Activates a New Snow-Removal Tracking Tool

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When Boston was hit with a second huge snowfall on Monday, winter-weary citizens were offered a new source of comfort on the city’s website: They could find out how quickly they could expect plows to appear and streets to be cleared.

Lack of knowledge breeds concern, of course, and City Hall was long accustomed to great volumes of calls to the mayor’s hotline during snow emergencies.

Snow Stats—a project from the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Public Works Department—was designed to better manage citizen complaints and hotline calls, by providing better tracking of snow-removal activities in each of 200 Boston’s snow-removal districts.

The Public Works Department recently showed off its SnowCOP system the agency uses to internally track the movements of its snow-removal fleet.

But the Snow Stats program, developed by Reston, Virginia-based firm Qlarion, is a public-facing information portal.

Snow Stats, which went live on Monday, is a phased application that starts with tracking a storm’s arrival and begins its work in the neighborhoods once enough snow has fallen to get the snowplows moving.

“From day one, I’ve expressed a deep commitment to transparency, and Snow Stats brings the people of Boston closer to municipal government,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. “With this tool residents will now be directly connected to the snow and ice removal process in their neighborhoods.”

On Monday, Boston’s Snow Stats tracked deployment of 800 plows and 1,200 people assigned to snow-removal duties. A screenshot of the program shows the data offered citizens if they typed in their addresses during the storm: number and type of vehicles deployed, number of miles plowed and percentage of streets completed, as well as snowfall in real and expected number of inches.

So far this season, Boston snow-removal crews have plowed more than 150,000 miles of streets, according to Snow Stats seasonal totals as of Tuesday evening.

Snow Stats automatically times out 24 hours after snowfall has ended, Qlarion Vice President of Operations Adam Roy said in an interview.

Qlarion has worked with the city of Boston previously, recently launching a new permit-tracking application.

Timothy B. Clark is editor-at-large at Government Executive.

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