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New must-have winter map: City of Guelph’s Plow Tracker

Have you ever wondered how long it would take for your street to be plowed in the middle of a heavy snowfall? Imagine having the ability to see where the next plow will be and in which order of priority streets will be cleaned. Find out how the City of Guelph in Ontario keeps its residents informed of snow removal operations through its new web mapping app.

The City of Guelph is offering its citizens insight into its snow removal operations with the Plow Tracker map, which was released in November. With the help of information that was already being collected by the municipality for operational purposes, the City has released the web mapping app to help residents be better informed during snow events.

Plow Tracker allows anyone to see where in the city the plows are operating. Plows are represented by dots on the map and are colour-coded to easily differentiate them. Blue dots represent city-operated plows, green dots are contractor plows and orange dots are dedicated for sidewalk plows.

The tracker is so precise that it even includes arrows to indicate in which direction they’re travelling. The plows are tracked using the Esri Canada’s Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) solution. Information from the AVL Solution is displayed on Plow Tracker using Esri’s ArcGIS Online, a cloud-based platform for efficient sharing of maps and data.

Plow Tracker

Plow Tracker map

In addition to informing people about where the snow plows are, the City also aims to educate people about its workflows and manage their expectations through the app. Guelph prioritizes snow removal by tackling major intersections first, identified by blue lines on the map. Then it proceeds with secondary roads, shown in thinner blue lines and finally, residential streets represented in green, which are only serviced after a major snow fall.

Residents are encouraged to wait 12 hours after a snow fall before calling in their snow removal requests. Note that the City has 24 hours to clear the roads.

“During periods of heavy snow fall, our Public Works department usually receives a lot of calls from residents inquiring about snow removal in their area,” said Alex Brossault, Geographic Information System (GIS) Program Manager, City of Guelph. “Since residents are now able to access this information directly from our self-serve web page, we’re expecting to gain significant time savings, which we can allocate to other projects or services.” 

While it’s still too early to list all the benefits or gather public feedback on Plow Tracker, City administrators are already considering other uses for the technology, namely for leaf removal and street cleaning. Guelph is also looking forward to comparing notes with other municipalities that have launched their own public-facing snow plow tracking apps.

What do you think of Guelph’s new app? Share your thoughts below.