GPS Snow Removal

Winter in Edmonton is always coming and it’s never too early to get prepared. On a personal note my snowshoes are by the front door ready for that first beautiful snowfall. Bring it on! From a city perspective we need to get prepared for snow.

At yesterday’s Transportation Committee, we talked snow removal. Based on inquiries I made earlier this year inspired by a very smart constituent, Roadways is starting two new pilot projects - one for the creation of a publicly available map system for snow removal, and the other a live GPS tracking for trucks.

Mapping Pilot

The mapping pilot will allow residents to monitor the progress of snow removal on priority routes in their area, and see where their road sits in the priority chain for clearing. This map will be updated three times a day with data from the snow clearing crews, and will show which and how much of any priority or arterial route is cleared at a given time. This will be of good use to all drivers and particularly those moving goods around our city.

GPS Pilot

The GPS pilot is going to be installed from December to March on five truck plows in the Southwest. The system will deliver live data on the snow clearing that the vehicles have completed. The feed delivers to the dispatch centre, who then looks at the routes taken by the trucks and then optimize the routes in order to reduce costs via less fuel consumption, staff time, and wear and tear on equipment.

The city of Centennial, in Colorado, implemented a similar system a few years ago, and found that it improved the efficiency of their snow removal teams by 28% - they were able to clear the entire arterial road system within 8 hours.

GPS - The Future of Snow Removal

I’d like to see GPS trackers in every plow and grader, not only for the purposes of reporting to Transportation and to the public, but for reporting directly back to the operators in their vehicles, so they know if a route has already been covered by another crew member.

We’ll need to see what the up-front investment would be to install the trackers in the equipment, but if the cost isn’t prohibitively high, the investment would definitely pay for itself in reduced costs for snow clearing. As our city grows so does are snow and ice control budget. This is one way we can start reigning in costs while making service better.

School Zones

Transportation Committee also passed a motion to deal with enhancing snow removal in school drop off and windrow free zones. Snow piles in these areas can be dangerous of vulnerable users like kids, who could be obscured or have to climb over large windrows near their schools. Clarifying the windrow policy for school drop off zones will lead to safer winters near our schools, and hopefully less hectic drop offs and pick ups.