Checking out other cities’ plow trackers


A screenshot of the Naperville snow removal status map. It doesn’t track plows live. 

After a reader tipped me to a McHenry County plow tracking website, I looked for other examples and found a couple that are leading Chicago’s.

The McHenry County application uses a color gradient to show which streets have been plowed (see bottom image), those that haven’t, as well as which streets might need to be plowed again. The application also shows truck speed and direction. The data isn’t live: the location and salt spreading information is retrieved when the truck passes a wireless access point. A GIS conference paper describes the system in detail and shows screenshots of the internal and public mapping applications. I could not find the public map.

I also found via the Daily Herald newspaper’s website that Naperville launched its own plow tracker on Wednesday. It activates when 2 or more inches of snow has fallen. What’s different about the Naperville map?

The Naperville Snow Routes Status Map shows a different bit of information: the status of streets and not the status of plows. This is the data I appeal for in Plow Tracker not ready for prime time. Street status is divided into six categories, with ascending progression of completeness: waiting, in progress, salted, plowed, plowed and salted, and maintained by others. The map describes which streets the city plows first, classifying them into arterials, priority one, two, and three.

The map has a higher level of usability, too: it zooms in to the address you input. The application lets you change the basemap layer to show a satellite view, show OpenStreetMap, and others.


This graphic represents how the McHenry County snow plow tracking application uses color to show direction and status. It was created by the reader and I modified it. I could not find a public version of their map. 

Others around the country

  • Howard County, Maryland – Also shows street status. Less accessible because it’s created in Flash.
  • Holmes County, Ohio – Shows plow location and historical plow location. Low usability, but uses more familiar Google Maps interface.
  • Annapolis Snow Plow Tracker – A grassroots effort to document city services, using Facebook. I assume it’s about Annapolis, Maryland.

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