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Town of Oakville makes sweeping changes to loose-leaf collection with GIS

The Roads and Works Department at the Town of Oakville currently has a loose-leaf collection program that covers approximately 450 kms of residential roads in Oakville. Find out how they used GIS applications to improve their workflow and allocation of resources to make the program more efficient and improve communication with stakeholders. 

The Town of Oakville is Ontario's largest town, with a population of more than 193,000 (2016 census). Every fall, the town’s Roads and Works Department collects loose leaves for approximately 450 kms of residential roads. The town is broken down into 11 zones and each zone receives 1 – 3 pickups between October 26 and December 5. The program runs three rounds of collections per street, lasting approximately five days per round. Residents are notified through the town’s web and social media to ensure they have their leaves by the boulevard or shoulder ready for pickup during the designated collection period.

The need for accessible, up-to-date information

As the program has been extremely successful, residents have come to rely on this service for the removal of their leaves. But in past years, due to excess rain or early snow, the team at Roads and Works have had to change pickup schedules. This led to many residents being frustrated because they didn’t know that leaves on their street were already picked up or that pickups were delayed. The residents would then call ServiceOakville (the town’s customer service counter) asking for information on pickups for their street which, at many times, wasn’t easily available.

Also, the supervisor of Works Operations would print out paper maps of pickup areas for each crew member and then highlight on the map the streets that were picked up. At the end of the year, the maps were kept in a binder, and there was no easy way to analyze the operation for future improvements. 

In the fall of 2019, the town was hit by an early snowfall that froze leaves on the side of the roadway, which meant that they couldn’t be picked up. Frustrated, residents contacted their councillors to demand for a better solution to track loose-leaf collection and improve communications with residents on when their leaves have been picked up.

Data collection and information sharing made easy with GIS

After much research, the team within Strategic Business Services implemented three tools to aid in formulating a seamless workflow for the collection of leaves and for effective communication with stakeholders.

  1. Esri’s mobile data collection app, ArcGIS Collector, allows the team to capture accurate data on the times when the roads are cleaned for each of the three rounds of pickup. The app also helps staff to identify and highlight problem locations where collection is impeded due to parked cars, contaminated leaf piles, etc. They use web maps on mobile devices to capture and edit data. ArcGIS Collector works even when disconnected from the Internet and integrates seamlessly with the department’s GIS. Currently, the following crews use the Collector app on rigidized handheld Windows 10 mobile devices:
  • 15 Roads and Works crews using dump trucks with leaf vacuums attached, referred to as the Leafer Units
  • 1 Roads and Works crew using dump trucks and a skid-steer loader, referred to as the Loader Crew. This crew does bulk pickup with no vacuums.
  • 4 hired sub-contractors using dump trucks and leaf vacuums
  1. An internal operational dashboard (Loose-leaf Dashboard) using ArcGIS Dashboards allows staff to see live feed of areas where leaves have been collected and filter information based on zones as they see problem areas. The dashboard shares updates to various internal stakeholders, including staff responding to resident inquiries. The data is updated every 6 seconds with data from the ArcGIS Collector app.

Dashboards are visual displays that present data in an easy-to-read format. All relevant information can be seen on a single screen, facilitating understanding quickly and easily. Every organization using the ArcGIS platform can take advantage of ArcGIS Dashboards to help make decisions, visualize trends, monitor status in real time and inform their communities.

Ryan Wood, supervisor in the Works Operations Department, says, “From a supervisor’s perspective, being able to view the dashboard in real time and monitor route completions has been very effective in coordinating our leaf pick-up operations. I now have a better idea of when streets are completed and when a zone is nearing completion. The dashboard gives us the ability to move trucks around in other zones without having to give the drivers a paper map.  Drivers can view the dashboard and find streets that aren’t completed and can help crews where they may have fallen behind due to equipment or other unforeseen issues.  By viewing the dashboard, multiple trucks in the same zones avoid crossover and avoid overlapping streets already completed.”

3. The team built the Loose-leaf Collection Tracker app using ArcGIS Web AppBuilder, an intuitive what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) application that allows you to build 2D and 3D web apps without writing a single line of code, and is easily accessible on the town's website. The app helps residents see all the data updated at regular intervals and keep themselves informed of the current status of their loose leaf collection at the click of a button.

The Loose-leaf Collection Tracker app uses an FME (Feature Manipulation Engine) that updates the data every 4 hours.  

Explaining how successful the project has been, Frank Goehner, supervisor of Business Solutions and Analytics at Town of Oakville, shares, “The 2020 fall loose leaf collection program began on Monday, October 26 and it now has the highest daily views for any web mapping application.”                

Turning over a new leaf

Using ArcGIS Dashboards, along with other GIS tools, has helped the Roads and Works Department at Town of Oakville to start a new chapter towards more efficient loose leaf collection, while also providing up-to-date information to its residents. The Loose-leaf Dashboard has made it possible to:

  • Share percentage of roads completed
  • Show a count of the problem locations with a summary window displaying information and pictures
  • Filter and access data on specific zones by choosing “Zone” in the upper right corner of the dashboard (as shown below)

“While the solution has only been live for a few weeks, using ArcGIS Dashboards has allowed staff to gain better visibility into the pickup areas, which should result in lower call volumes to ServiceOakville, as well as better tracking of work by managers in the Roads and Works Department,” concludes Frank.

Want to create your own dashboard? Visit ArcGIS Dashboards and start your free trial today.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Dimpee Shah is a Public Relations Specialist for Esri Canada. The power of geography and its ability to build ‘real connections’ fascinate her. Dimpee has a bachelor’s degree in mass media with majors in advertising and public relations. She has over 10 years of international experience in developing and executing communications campaigns to meet business objectives. Her love for performing arts has inspired her to always put her best foot forward.

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