Cleveland's new plow tracker snowed under by 'overwhelming' demand

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In the wake of a Jan. 17 snowstorm that dumped 15 inches of snow on Cleveland and left residents frustrated when roads were not being cleared, Mayor Justin Bibb on Thursday announced that the city would try something new: an online snowplow tracker, designed to display the locations of the city’s trucks and which streets they’ve cleared.

But by midday Friday, with more light snow falling, Bibb’s new “Plow Tracker Map” was displaying a message warning users that because of an “overwhelming response,” the site is experiencing technical difficulties and “may be unresponsive at times.”

The map is designed to update the locations of city snowplows every two minutes, displaying black dots to represent the locations of plows and green lines showing where they’ve cleared away snow, Cleveland Chief Operating Officer Bonnie Teeuwen explained during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

The green lines showing which roads had been cleared, however, were not displaying properly for much of the day Friday.

The snowplow tracker is part of a broad plan for Cleveland to update the city’s snow removal policy and add 20 more plows to an existing fleet of 72. The previous policy — which was in place during the recent snowstorm — was written to address amounts of snow, but not the pace of accumulation, Bibb said during the conference.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Bibb, who was sworn in Jan. 3. “It’s a pilot, but it’s a good step in the right direction to give our residents transparent access to know when snowplows are coming to their neighborhood.”

The tracker is also Cleveland’s latest venture into using geographic information systems technology to convey information to the public. Previous projects published on the city’s GIS platform include street conditions and mapping police calls.

Chicago, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh each have similar snowplow trackers. The website operated by Pittsburgh, where it also snowed Friday, was having technical issues as well.

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Cleveland, GIS, Justin Bibb, snowplows
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