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Boston’s new online plow map gets stuck in the snow

More snow is on the way Wednesday, and the SnowOps site may not be back up before then.


Justin Franz

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 12, 2013   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 1:19 am CDT

This week, the Northeast is still digging out from the historic winter storm that covered the region with record amounts of snow. And in Boston, public works officials are trying to dig out from a virtual mess that shut down that city’s new online snowplow tracker at the height of the blizzard.

The SnowOps mapping system was unveiled by Boston last week so that residents could watch the progress of the city’s snowplows online, thanks to GPS technology. Using the map, people can see when their street might be plowed. It also helps officials keep track of drivers who aren’t doing their job and has reportedly saved thousands in tax dollars. The system is already in place in New York City, and officials in Boston have quietly used it for the last three years. With winter storm Nemo taking dead aim at the city last week, officials thought it would be a great time to launch the website.

“We want to give residents a look at what’s being done on their behalf, and this technology takes them right into the command centers of our public works yards,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement.

But just hours after the snow started to fly, the mapping site was brought down by a swarm of Web traffic that was interfering with the city’s own public works systems. As city spokesperson Emilee Ellison told the Boston Globe, “it got a ton of traffic.”

Traffic that the website couldn’t handle, apparently, and even after the storm clouds cleared, the website is still down. As of Monday night, it read: “We are experiencing significant traffic and the site is currently unavailable. We are working to resolve these issues. Please check back later. Thank you for your patience.” With more snow in the forecast for tomorrow night, that patience might not last.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first plow problem the city of Boston has had this winter. In December, a plow truck was stolen. But since all of them have GPS installed, it’d be an easy fix, right? Wrong. It was one of the city’s trucks that hasn’t had the new technology installed.

Photo via Andrew Ciscel/Flickr

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*First Published: Feb 12, 2013, 11:21 am CST