WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Montgomery County Will Add GPS To Battle Snow

Play associated audio
Instead of expensive tracking systems, Montgomery County plows may be guided by TomTom GPS units.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/justindc/4349826912/
Instead of expensive tracking systems, Montgomery County plows may be guided by TomTom GPS units.

The D.C. area saw the first appearance of snow this season over the weekend, which served as a reminder: removing snow is often a costly business. Montgomery County has already implemented GPS tracking of its plows for residents, and this year, it's putting those GPS systems inside the cabs of trucks to lend a hand to drivers as well. 

Storms can be devastating, especially when hours lost at businesses when they have to close because of snow are factored in, says Keith Compton, who's the head of the Montgomery County's snow removal team. "The one-day major snowstorm -- one day -- can cost the state $300 to $700 million," says Compton. "We are the largest county in the state, so we are going to bear the lion's share of that $300 to $700 million."

Removing snow is just as much about technology as it is economics. County executive Isiah Leggett says there are few departments that constantly upgrade the technology they use more than the snow removal team. Last year, a website was launched that showed what streets had been cleared, and when it was wrong, Leggett heard about it.

"My telephone number is listed," says Leggett. "And if there's a problem, people didn't have to call 311, or go through my office in Rockville, they could and did call me directly at home."

But even with some of the glitches, Leggett calls the website a success, saying he received far more calls at home the previous year than last year.  This year's improvement is somewhat low-tech in comparison. Plows will have GPS devices made by TomTom, just like those sold in stores, programmed with each of the 217 snow plow routes, meaning all drivers will have to do is punch in the specific route number and just follow the voice commands. 

Keith Compton, the head of the county's snow removal team, says the 300 or so TomToms were far less expensive than the automated vehicle locator (AVL) system they contemplated buying: "These things are about $250 a piece," Compton says. "A full-blown AVL system is about $800,000."

Compton adds they are trying the automated system on a limited basis this year.  It allows the command center to see where plows have been, but more importanly, says Compton, the devices show plow drivers where they need to go.

NPR

Remembering Robert Swanson, Advertising's 'King Of Jingles'

Robert Swanson revolutionized American advertising and wrote some of the most memorable ad jingles of the 1950s and '60s for products ranging from Campbell's Soup to Pall Mall cigarettes. He died at 95 July 17 at his home in Phoenix, Ariz.
NPR

Forget Instagram. We've Been Showing Off Fancy Food For Centuries

Scroll through social feeds long enough, and you're bound to come across someone gloating about their incredible meal. But exotic or aspirational foods have been used in Western art for 500 years.
WAMU 88.5

Democratic National Convention Day Two: Uniting The Party

An update on day two of the Democratic convention: Bill Clinton takes the stage and ongoing efforts by party leaders to build unity.

WAMU 88.5

How To Help Teens And Children Fight 'Tech Addiction'

Many parents and therapists say obsessive internet use is a very real problem for some teens and children. But the term “internet addiction” is controversial and not officially recognized as a disorder. How to help kids who compulsively use computers and mobile technology.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.