Accusations of political favoritism are nothing new in the Windy City, but recently elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel has created a program to try to address the situation — at least as it relates to snow removal. Taking a cue from Maryland’s Montgomery and Howard Counties, the City of Chicago has granted residents access to ChicagoShovels.org, a website that lets residents monitor the exact location of every plow in the city via GPS tracking.
Previously available only to municipal employees, the site allows anybody with Internet access to track the city’s plows in real time. There will also be live alerts when the city gets more than two inches of snow. And if cars are towed to facilitate snow removal, owners will be able to locate them much more easily.
There are also programs available through the site that help people share shoveling equipment. Good samaritans can even volunteer to shovel sidewalks and steps for the elderly or people with disabilities.
Following in Chicago’s footsteps, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he’s planning to launch a similar website some time soon. Bloomberg says that the site might not help speed the plows, but would instead make the whole snow removal process more transparent.
“I don’t know that it necessarily improves our ability to plow,” the mayor told The NY Daily News. “We have the routes, and we are going to do it. But it does let you see where plows went and when they went there.”
ChicagoShovels.org was launched at just the right time. Chicago hasn’t had a particularly snowy winter thus far, but it did start seeing some of the white stuff earlier this week.
We hope other cities follow Chicago’s lead. And As New York City residents, we hope the plow-tracking program gets up and running in the Big Apple as soon as possible, preferably before this year’s first big storm.