New Brunswick

Where's the snowplow? Edmundston makes it easy to know

The City of Edmundston has launched an interactive map that shows the progress of its snow-removal fleet in real time.

City pilot project interactive map about snow removal

Snowplows in Edmundston are now equipped with updated GPS units so they can be tracked in real time by residents on an interactive map. (City of Edmundston)

It's a common frustration in winter: you just finish shovelling your driveway and the plow comes by, blocking it in again.

Those days may be over in Edmundston.

The city has launched an interactive map that shows the progress of snow removal crews in real time.

"A quick glance at the map will allow you to see the location of the snow removal crews on the streets and sidewalks, and even when they have passed by during a 24-hour period," said a news release from the city.

Edmundston public roads co-ordinator Gary Cyr said the new snowplow map will be tested this season and may be tweaked or expanded. (City of Edmundston)

A person can open the map on a smartphone, tablet or computer by going to the city's website. In the quick access tab there's an option called "Where's the Snow Plow?"

"We believe that citizens will greatly appreciate the information," Mayor Cyrille Simard said.

Besides the convenience factor for individual driveway shovellers and snow-clearing contractors, it's also public safety information about which routes are in the best condition for driving and walking, said public roads co-ordinator Gary Cyr.

"Even the people who want to go have a walk on the sidewalks if they're wondering if it's been plowed, a quick click and they'll see," he said.

The map was introduced at the Tuesday night council meeting and before noon on Wednesday there had been almost 1,000 hits, Cyr said.

"I guess that's good news. I'm glad they're using it."

The city is typically one of the snowiest areas of the province and has already had about 30 centimetres of snow this season.

Cyr said people in the public works department have been working on the idea for the snowplow map for a few years now.

They started by upgrading the GPS systems in the winter operations fleet, which consists of six trucks, three loaders, one grader, and two sidewalk plows.

They've already used GPS for 12 to 14 years, Cyr said, largely to defend against insurance claims.

"We're able to see where we salted and where we sanded and if that street was plowed or not," he said.

A technician from the city's development department was enlisted last spring to create the interactive map.

The 'Where's the snow plow?' interactive map on the City of Edmundston's website shows the progress of snow removal crews in real time and tracks snow clearing over the previous 24 hours. (City of Edmundston)

In the future, Cyr said, the city also plans to use GPS to monitor speed and salt use.

The pilot project is for one season. Cyr said the city will see if there are any problems and try to work out the kinks.

"It will probably be back next year," he said. "I don't see it going away."

For now, the Saint-Basile area is not included in the pilot project. Snow removal there is done by a private contractor. But Cyr said the service could possibly expand.

"We'll see how it's received by the public. … You never know."

There aren't very many communities around the province or even the country that have this type of system.

Near Saint John, the Town of Rothesay launched a map and smartphone app a few years ago.