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GovBytes: Chicago Generates Web Buzz with Snowplow Trackers

As towns and cities are geared up for winter snowfall, some are making sure that those charged with clearing it are doing their jobs. Chicago, for example, has last year installed trackers on its fleet of ~300 snowplows, and turned them on again this year just in time for their first major snowstorm. So many citizens were interested in the trackers, which are on ChicagoShovels.org, that the city’s government website received the highest amount of traffic ever. Citizens use the maps to find out when their streets will be cleared. According to Kevin Hauswirth:

“This additional information gives users a better understanding of what they’re seeing. It’s important to put the technology out there, and also provide some context, he said.

Overall, the Plow Tracker was successful during its first run, Hauswirth said. The tracker was turned on as the snowplows were going out into the streets before any snow hit the ground.

Storm Puts Chicago’s New Snowplow Tracker to Test

The city is also using social media to field questions about the program by answering questions on Facebook and Twitter. This allows people to get real-time answers about the new program, as well as quickly find out what time their street should be plowed.

Are programs which track city workers location, snow plow or not, too big brother-esque? Are trackers a waste of resources, or do they keep those charged with plowing on their feet and doing their jobs, thus saving money?

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Joshua Salmons

I don’t know if it treads into the realm of big brother or if it scratches a municipal voyeuristic itch. I personally would be interested in checking it out because it would let me wrap my head around the impact of specific storms. It’s the same reason I click the “traffic” tab on Google maps and see the scope of the delays across the whole city, even though I won’t hit 99% of the roads I’m viewing as I drive off.

It could also let me see how close the workers are to plowing my street, if they’ve already plowed, etc. I guess people would use it to try and keep the snow plow people working. And I’m sure the snow plows would think it’s a little big brother-esque. But I’m more of the persuasion that it’s something to let the citizens feel a part of the city and its efforts to weather the storms.