Motorists Seeking Real-Time GPS Tracking Info
The snowstorm that slammed into the Northeast this past weekend dropped upwards of three (3) feet of snow in some areas of Boston, leaving city workers with the task of digging the city out of the snow. In order to maximize efficiency and keep the public informed, Boston officials outfitted city snow plows with real-time GPS trackers and shared the locational data on a public website. The website was created as a resource for the Boston public that would allow people to see where snowplows were working and what areas they had already plowed. However, the massive storm created such a spike in traffic to the website that the city was forced to temporarily take the website offline. According to analytics that track web traffic, the snow plow tracking website received more than a million unique visitors within a couple hours of the snowstorm.
The Boston area population was last documented at approximately 630,000. A spokesperson for Mayor Thomas Menino stated that the snow plow monitoring website simply was not set-up to handle such a random influx of traffic, and that the rise in web visitors was probably due to outside news agencies and others interested in the impact of the snowstorm. However, the anomaly in traffic actually resulted in Boston fleet management officials having a more difficult time managing snow plows in operation.
When a blizzard disrupted New York City in 2010 officials realized that a better vehicle management solution for snow plows would be necessary to maximize the effectiveness of road clearing crews. This is because in 2010 many roads did not get plowed, leaving school buses, ambulances and other emergency vehicles stranded. The city was left scrambling to help New Yorkers and struggled getting the most accurate information from snow plow teams assigned to dig the city out of the snow. Shared GPS tracking technology has grown in popularity recently with bus transportation companies, limo businesses and airport shuttles, and Boston saw the technology as an opportunity. The opportunity was to provide the people of Boston an avenue to access a website showcasing GPS tracking data of city snow plow vehicles. This would allow the public to see in real-time the progress of snow plows, giving people a better time frame for when plows would be in their area. Although Boston officials believed they were in the best position possible to effectively clear roadways while keeping the public informed, nobody was able to predict how much traffic the GPS tracking website would receive.
Although the website crash caused some outrage among the public at least it provided the city with the real world experience of knowing how the public would use the GPS tracking website in a severe snowstorm. Boston city officials stated that this beta testing will only help them improve the system in the future.