Local Gov 2.0 plowing ahead!
Snowed in and dreading the forecast of humble groundhog Punxsutawney Phil who predicted 6 more weeks of
winter? Take solace in a spate of excellent government websites that now provide comprehensive snow removal information.
While we've been snowed in ourselves, we've researched and rated the best
municipal government snow-removal information across the U.S., based on how capable their online resources are. We looked at whether cities offer interactive maps, real-time (or near real-time) information on plowing progress, schedules for future plowing,
road condition stats, traffic cameras, route planning, and more. We also looked at how easy it was to find the snow information from the city's official homepage.
The results were surprising. We didn't find anything of note for perennial winter wonderlands like Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland. Other big cities that see a fair amount of snow (New York, Boston, Philadelphia) also lagged in their online info. Instead, we found a few smaller cities that had managed to make the leap to interactive maps.
The snow removal maps may not be a substitute for seeing a plow actually clear your street, but these websites do help you know what's going on, and in some cases how to plan your day and driving route to minimize frustration. None of the contenders are perfect, but they all make a
vigorous attempt and compared to some of their neighbors they are light years
Here are OhMyGov's 10 Best Cities for Tracking Snow Removal:
10. The City of
They may have “hills of the greenest green" in Seattle,
but when it snows they turn icy white and dangerous. Historically Seattle has been relatively free of
big snows due to the warm air from the Pacific, yet in 2007 and 2008 the city had
enough of the white stuff to shut things down. The beautiful city by Puget Sound found herself hopelessly
behind clearing roads and since these things tend to “snowball” left her
citizens both stranded and angry.
In response the city has beefed up its website with PDF maps and information to
help residents get around, and committed to updating the website in real-time during snowstorms. It’s not as high-tech as
it could be but they are making progress.
City of Longmont, Colorado
Our representative from the Rocky Mountain
State may not have an interactive map, but that hasn’t stopped them from
creating a very helpful and highly informative snow removal page. It isn’t that easy to find from the
town’s homepage, but once you get there it is easy to navigate and absolutely
packed with useful information. They empower you with the knowledge of plow deployment, road priority,
citizen responsibilities, and maps.
8. The City of Winnipeg,
We included a Canadian city as a shout-out to our friendly northern neighbors during the Winter Olympics. Although Winnipeg doesn’t
have an interactive map, this website really impressed us. The snow removal information was easy
to find and easy to use despite that crazy Canadian accent. The city's snow page is updated regularly during
storms and provides information on snow routes, plowing, parking, hauling and
sidewalks. Type an address on
their map and you’ll get specifics like when you can expect
your garbage to be picked up.
7. The City of Waynesboro, Virginia
Another surprising entry is this pretty Virginia hamlet. Waynesboro's website has a somewhat limited
interactive map that indicates whether a general area has been treated or not. It may not be overly burdened with specifics,
but it might make a snow bound person feel better. The "information" page lacks any information though, so citizens will have to
go elsewhere to find out whether they need to clear their own sidewalk or where
to park their car.
City of Anchorage, Alaska
This northern jewel of a city has snow removal down to a science. Anchorage's interactive map is perhaps not as
effective as the men & women who actually do the plowing, but at least the city is trying. The snow removal page
was fairly easy to find from the city's homepage under featured links, but
they don’t waste a lot of words there. (I guess they figure if you live in Alaska you already know
about dealing with snow.) The page
essentially tells you when it was last updated, that they will tow your car if
you’re parked in a plowing area, and where to click to find the status
map. The map takes about ten days
to download and its icons don’t seem work very well, but it does show plowed
areas in pink and unplowed areas in white.
5. Howard County, Maryland
Counties can play this game too and
Howard County has stepped up to the plate in a big way. Howard County's website busts it up when it comes
to snow removal: it features an interactive map that is updated every 15 minutes during a snowstorm. Click the map on your
neighborhood and it zooms in to show the roads that have been plowed &
salted, just plowed or just salted, or completely untreated. It will also indicate if an actual plow
is in the area with a red star. The information page tells you how the streets are prioritized and
approximately how long it takes to “get her done.” Nice work.
City of Greensboro, North Carolina
This southern belle of a city in North
Carolina is beating many of her northern sisters when it comes to communicating
with citizens in a snow emergency.
You’ve got to appreciate people that go the extra mile despite the
rather low odds of regular blizzard activity. Greensboro has an interactive map that shows whether a road
has been plowed or not. It doesn’t provide
as much detail as some of the other maps we’ve seen, and you may find yourself
knowing that your street is a Priority 1 without having any idea what that
exactly means since they don’t post schedules. But life is more interesting when mixed with a little mystery,
3. The City
of Louisville, Kentucky
Clearly better known for horse racing than their snow acumen, this
city in Kentucky made our list with one of the better interactive maps in the
country. Even though it requires a
search from their main page, once you reach the snow removal page everything
gets easier. A nifty icon takes
the viewer to the map where they can type in their address to get the latest
information on plowing. The city
even has the good manners to explain how their “interactive snow map”
works. Information includes how a
road was treated, how often, and when it was last done. In addition they provide a long list of
FAQ’s and helpful snow advice.
2. The District
of Columbia Department of Transportation
This was a close contender for the top spot, and already featured on OhMyGov recently, during the "Week the Government Shut Down." Part of the D.C. government's impressive technical tools built up over the past few years, the snow removal map as we said last week is far better than the actual snow removal! Finding the page on the district's
website was easy, but finding the cool map was trickier. How are you supposed to know that
clicking on “Snow Response Reporting System” will take you to a very techie,
interactive, real-time updated map of the city? Perhaps something like “Click here to find out if your road
has been plowed” would be better.
But, not to quibble, the site overall is a snow mountain of useful
information. You can even find out what kind of treatment a road has received if you don’t want to drive your new
Porsche in the salt.
1. The City of Spokane,
Located near the
Canadian border in the state of Washington, Spokane, with a population of just
over 450,000, is a surprise gold medalist this year. Although not as visually impressive as
DC's site, it is generally easier to use. A clear icon on the city’s main page leads you to an obvious
“Click here to see the Plowing Progress Map.” Brilliant. The
map is updated in real-time, and you can enter an address or click on a location
to get detailed information about whether it’s been plowed or not. The legend shows streets that are
plowed, streets that are in the progress of being plowed, and the streets that
are next -- all very useful for trip-planning. The site also has a lot
of valuable snow tips, FAQ’s, and contact information. One downside is that although the city has
traffic cameras, they are not linked to the snow information page. Hey, it's something for the city's web team to do during the next blizzard!
Congrats to all the municipal governments for providing key information to citizens at a time of need. See you next year!
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