Seasonal operations planning is a process all municipalities, large and small, must go through as the seasons change throughout the year. Whether it’s ordering salt for the winter months or flowers for the spring plantings, all municipalities are involved with planning out the process by which seasonal services will be executed. For the City of Des Plaines Public Works department, snow removal and street salting have always been two of the primary services included in the winter operation plans. In past years, the various plow and salting routes have, primarily, been determined by the individual truck operators and had little coordination across the department from route to route. To help better coordinate this effort, and to avoid routes overlapping, the department asked the city’s GIS department to assist in creating a series of city-wide maps showing the various routes to help make the overall snow plowing process more efficient.
The Public Works department had two primary goals for developing the city’s snow plow and salting routes in GIS for mapping: 1. To help clearly define each route for the truck operators to avoid route conflicts and to ensure maximum coverage across the city and 2. To get a spatial record of the route areas to allow for an easier transfer of information for substitute or new operators. Before the GIS department was involved in this process, the areas covered by each route were developed by the primary truck operators and were not coordinated by the department administration. Developing a spatial record of the routes provides an administrative tool for better route planning and promotes a more efficient use of the department’s resources.
In addition to providing an administrative advantage for overall planning, the maps create an operational advantage by providing a consistent tool for any truck operator who is not familiar with his assigned route. In addition to city-wide maps used in the office, individual route map books have been provided in each truck to allow an operator to see the individual streets they are responsible for. While a route map did exist for each truck before GIS was involved, the maps were hand-drawn and would take hours to duplicate, provided someone could remember exactly where the route went. Developing the maps in GIS allows for duplication and redundancy with the mapping, resulting in a much easier process for printing off new maps as needed.
By using GIS to assist in the development and mapping of the city’s route information, the Public Works department has improved its winter operations planning efficiency and developed a more stable operational resource for the truck operators. For these reasons, the department has decided to use GIS as its primary medium for maintain this information moving forward.