Tag Archive for APWA

How GIS Data Makes Municipalities More Efficient

How-GIS-Data-Makes-Cities-More-Efficient

 

Our Chris Jackson, VP Government Sales, was asked to present at this year’s APWA (Alberta) Partners in Excellence 2013 Annual Conference & Tradeshow held in Red Deer, Alberta. On October 1, he shared the stage with CTS (Certified Tracking Solutions), and presented a 45-minute talk on GIS (geographic information systems) to a room packed with over 100 municipal planners from around the province.

Mapping all city assets to GIS (for example, each city street light tracked by its location and detailed information about its components) is significantly big enough that most municipalities either have a GIS person or a GIS department, and by adding telematics data (vehicle data) to the equation, the combined effect points the way to new benefits in visual interpretation, operational and service-level decision making tools, and spatial processing capabilities. Chris cited the example of InterFleet customer Alberta Transportation, which developed the AVLS Billing System to combine route information and material totals to bill third-party contractors.

Larger municipalities in Alberta, such as Edmonton and Calgary, have gathered over a decade’s worth of municipal GIS data and vehicle data, but smaller communities are just beginning to see the possibilities of what they can do with it. Even so, the successes of Apple and Google’s various consumer-oriented mapping applications have made GIS common knowledge for most people. The word’s out, and constituents are consuming data at ever-increasing rates, which is putting pressure on municipalities to provide it. For Public Works departments, the open data movement is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, communication and transparency; on the other, the risk of public misinterpretation of complex data.

Chris finished by mentioning the successes of the Webtech 511 app, which provided a middle ground for municipalities that want to share the vast amount of data they possess, but fear the risk of having it misinterpreted by software developers who could misrepresent it. Unlike predictive transit information, Public Works GIS information can be very complex, so by promoting an App that they themselves have had a hand in creating, municipalities lessen the risk of having their data misinterpreted while providing a reputable alternative in the event that someone goes ahead with the open data and inadvertently creates a public relations monster.

Automatic Vehicle Locating System

Mississauga Brings Winter Smarts to APWA

City of Mississauga plows
Images courtesy of City of Mississauga

Today marks the first day of spring and, with winter storms still ravaging the continent, most North Americans want to put winter firmly behind them. But for some, winter endures in relatively balmy Charlotte, North Carolina, host city to this year’s American Public Works Association (APWA) Snow Show. On April 7, more than 1,500 “snowfighters” will descend on Charlotte for four days of networking, technical tours, and educational programs. For those attending, one highlight not to miss is hearing Bob Levesque’s success story from the City of Mississauga’s Works Operations department. I phoned Bob to get a sneak preview into the issues he’ll be describing in Charlotte.

Risk Mitigation is Foresight

City of Mississauga sidewalk plow
Bob shows me a picture of a sidewalk plow. It looks like an ordinary urban winter scene in Ontario—a plow, a parked car, a small brick fence by a neighbour’s front yard. Bob sees much more than I do. “If the plow operator isn’t careful”, Bob points out, “he or she could shred the side of the car at the curb”. Then he points out that the neighbour’s decorative brick fence is encroaching on City property and that there are other unknown hazards hidden in the snow.

There are other types of liability too. In the days before Works Operations had implemented their InterFleet GPS/AVL solution (2010), it was very difficult to prove that the department had plowed a street to standard in the event of a complaint or a law suit. “Now we have hard data,” Levesque says, underscoring a certain level of shared responsibility between the City and its residents to take care in winter conditions. “Citizens have to dress appropriately for winter conditions, and we have to provide due diligence in keeping a minimum standard for cleared roads and sidewalks.”

He cites another time when he received a call from the police department about a particularly icy hill. Bob was able to respond immediately by dispatching a salter truck to the hill, thereby preventing a car pile up. With several more examples, Bob convinced me that the best use of a GPS/AVL winter maintenance solution is foresight—knowing what’s going on in real-time allows Operations to make better and quicker decisions about situations before they escalate.

“Our goal is to catch a missed street and dispatch a plow there even before it gets back to the yard.”
­—Bob Levesque, Operations, City of Mississauga

Faster than a Speeding…Snow Plow?

Everyone wants his or her street plowed first and fast, and that puts a lot of pressure on Public Works departments. It comes as something of a surprise then that one of complaints plow operators get is speeding snow plows! Bob attributes this to an optical illusion created by a truck with its plow blade down, “It may be going only 25 mph, but it appears to be going much faster”.  He also describes that the salt controller is attached to the speedometer, so a genuinely speeding snow plow would leave an erratic trail of salt in its wake (perhaps the source of citizen complaints?). Nonetheless with GPS/AVL, the department has speeding covered too as InterFleet can provide reports showing vehicle speeds along routes.

Winter Light Up

Before next winter, Bob plans to take advantage of InterFleet’s Winter Light Up program to ensure that fleet and drivers are ready to go for next year. “Getting prepared ahead of time is going to help in the long run”, says Levesque. Aside from the usual readiness preparations needed after a long hot summer—plows ready, drivers retrained, contractors engaged, and so on—there are sometimes unexpected surprises. “Last year we had a plow reporting in from somewhere in Europe”, Bob says adding that older vehicles are sometimes sold at auctions over the summer months and this one had apparently gone overseas with its Locator still installed. I’m just thinking, “now that, I want to see on a map—with breadcrumbs”.

Come Down to Charlotte for the Snow

City of Mississauga - Bob LevesqueIf you’re attending the APWA Snow Show in Charlotte, make sure you catch Bob Levesque’s presentation, Reducing Liability and Improving Winter Operations Using a GPS/AVL Solution.