New live snowplow tracker, (1/27/22).
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb unveiled a public-facing snowplow tracker
Thursday afternoon so that residents can see which streets have been plowed during winter weather events.
Bibb, who vowed to improve the city's response after last Monday's storm, also announced that 20 additional trucks would be added to the fleet and that personnel from other city departments would be enlisted as drivers. The goal is that after future heavy snowfalls, residential streets can be plowed at the same time as primary and secondary thoroughfares.
Last Monday's snowfall was the largest accumulation in a decade, and according to Bibb, the city's current response plan insufficiently accounted for the intensity of precipitation. Snow accumulated very quickly and plows were concentrated on clearing the main streets, in accordance with existing policy.
While the plows hit every street within 72 hours — again, following existing policy — many neighborhoods were plowed near the end of that time frame. Bibb said he took personal responsibility for the more than 1,000 resident phone calls that went unanswered and said that the improvements were being launched with communication and transparency in mind.
The tracker was a natural solution. The city's plows were already equipped with GPS technology, (which Bibb said was a surprise to learn), and new COO Bonnie Teeuwen said the only update is that the online tracker will be available for the public. A map of the city will be updated every two minutes during a winter weather events. Dots on the map represent trucks, and the live tracking will be activated when their plows touch the ground.
Bibb said that five additional trucks had been ordered in the fall, but that supply chain issues had delayed their delivery. It's still unknown when they might arrive. Additional trucks in the city's fleet will be outfitted with plows and hydraulics, modifications estimated to cost about $25,000 per vehicle.
"We want to do more with what we currently have," Bibb said, after Teeuwen estimated that upgrading existing vehicles was roughly ten times cheaper than buying new plows outright.
Bibb said that the city is hoping to use best practices from the division of waste management to ensure that plow routes are as "dynamic and responsive" as possible. And Teeuwen suggested that a consultant may be hired or a computer program may be purchased to optimize routes based on the GPS data.
During Monday's event, Bibb said he was in "constant" communication with leaders at RTA and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. Together, they've decided to host a "tabletop exercise" to simulate another severe weather event to find ways to collaborate and ensure that hospitals, bike lanes, RTA stops and sidewalks remain safe and accessible after heavy snowfall.
Councilman Mike Polensek appeared on the virtual press conference and even got a question in, reminding the mayor that seniors were unlikely to use the new GPS tracker online. He said the robocalls were effective and suggested even more of them to communicate the city's plowing progress.
Bibb agreed, noting that his grandmother sure wasn't hopping online to check the progress of plowing. He said last Monday taught him the importance of overly communicating, and that he was prepared to work with council and other regional leaders to collaboratively revamp the system. Echoing a slogan from his campaign, Bibb said he was committed to "getting the basics" right.
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