As grumbling grows, city announces snow-removal strike force

Snow interviewCasey being interviewed on her unplowed JP street today by Joe Shortsleeve.

This just in from the mayor's office:

As clean-up continues in the City of Boston, Snow Removal Strike Force teams, comprised of members of the Boston Public Works Department, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Police Department, and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, are being deployed across the City in a coordinated effort to remove piles of snow from roadways and intersections. Work will continue throughout the day and night.

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this is good news... but why

this is good news... but why did the plows stop when streets had not been plowed? I live in west roxbury. my street was plowed but an access street never was. this never happened before. thank god for the rain.

wildly irresponsible

On Sat a.m. we hiked to some friends house on Taft Hill Terrace in Roslindale.
We saw no city plows out at all, and Taft Hill Terrace was entirely unplowed, with 3-4 feet of snow down its entire length, a few hundred yards.

Its a good thing there was not a medical emergency or house fire down there; those folks would've been screwed.

The fact that Boston snow removal "professionals" ride up and down the main streets and ignore side streets is a crime!

plow crew shuffle

I heard that the crews that normally plow Boston city streets were loaned out to plow state roads and private contractors -- anyone with a plow on their truck -- plowed Boston city streets. Is that true?

You had your plow out, too?

Me neither. Nobody I know plows these days.

I'm not capable of staying up for 48 straight hours driving around. My dad could do it in his 20s, given enough coffee and ciggys, but it wasn't pretty.

My city is a mess, too. I think the lack of equipment able to handle the heavy and quick snowfall was involved, and, with fewer people to plow, there comes a need for people to sleep eventually.

I'm also wondering if, overall there are fewer people investing in the equipment?

Snow REMOVAL

Boston is a major city in the Northeast, with a sizable population and density, that sees a good amount of snow most winters.

Remind me again why we don’t have a snow removal policy and plan? Why does it take a historic storm to clear the roads, instead of pushing the slush where ever we think it’ll fit? Why aren’t we plowing to the curb and removing this stuff every storm?

The road to Montreal

It seems like what you're requesting is what Montreal does? Instead of just plowing it, they front end load it into trucks, and dispose of it into the harbor?

Montreal spends a huge sum on this every year. Montreal greens don't like the idea either. The city does, however, make an astronomical sum on parking tickets every year.

On the other hand, this really does appear to be the problem with this storm, there's just nowhere to put the stuff.

What happened to the Snow Farms we had in 2011?

Agreed, this is the fifth largest storm ever, but...

...it's not as if the city didn't know this was coming, the forecasts were consistent all week. They've done OK, but I'm having a hard time with the idea of a special team to do something that should be simply part of the city's job on a regular basis during the winter. Curious too what the final $$ bill is going be. Strike Teams sound awfully expensive!

not adequate

I'm originally from Buffalo - admittedly a city that does a lot of things backwards and leaves much to be desired, but one that at least does snow removal better than Boston. Trucks are brought in to remove the snow; it is put on football and soccer fields of schools, as well as parking lots of seasonal businesses and in vacant lots and yards, parks ,etc. It is basically moved anywhere that isn't needed (ie no roads, etc). Landscapers are also paid extra to assist with plowing (rather than just the city workers), and plows are run round the clock.

I'm shocked at the lack of plowing I have seen this time. AND, the city is asking for our support while they try and deal with the snow, but will ticket our cars and homeowners with sidewalks just as soon as they can.

I don't think disposal space is the problem.

First, I suppose you learn something every day. Who knew Montreal had a harbor? I know that it has several Bassins at the port, but not a harbor. In my defense, it is, after all, an island in the middle of a river.

Regarding disposals, the City of Boston has plenty of "snowfields" on which to put this snow, particularly since there was no pre-existing snow on them. Prohibiting the City from dumping filthy urban snow into a harbor that we have collectively spent billions of dollars to clean up is completely reasonable.

The problem is more likely an equipment or personnel problem or both. In either case, it comes down to poor management, and we know where that buck stops.

Poor Joe Casazza is rolling over in his grave just now.

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I picture

The Strikeforce spilling out of a convoy of armored vehicles at the end of an unplowed street. Armed with with flamethrowers, they march slowly in a Vee formation obliterating every flake and chunk of ice. This mission complete,and to the cheers of grateful citizens,they head to the next block,and the next,and the next.

Maybe they could have a cool soundtrack playing,too.

why is anyone surprised?

We contract out to private companies for municipal snow removal, and we're shocked and amazed at the fact that nothing gets done for days, which coincidentally, is how long it takes for the companies to plow out their private customers?

Ever noticed how, during a storm, you see a lot of trucks driving around with their plows up and no sand/salt coming out the back? Gee, now why is that?

No complaints here ...

I whine all the time but right now I'm pretty happy with the response. Of course, I don't own a car, so I don't have to worry about snowed-in streets.

Tremont Street in the South End is still off-limits to street parking, which I can't see changing anytime soon. It looks as though they'll either have to accept one-lane traffic in each direction with street parking or no street parking if they want to have two lanes in each direction - which everyone will ignore in order to drop people off. I also don't see how they can expect anyone to use a meter since most are buried up to their boxes and inaccessible from the sidewalk and street.

Most people and most businesses have plowed out the sidewalks in front of their buildings. A couple of bad eggs but overall, much, much better than you'd fear.

I take the T to work or can

I take the T to work or can work from home and can walk to the store for things I need to wait it out. So having my car temporarily trapped on an unplowed street is not a big deal. What is a big deal is if there's some emergency or someone's house catches on fire, we're all fucked.

Oh, and we can't really call for delivery either or a cab. That kinda sucks, but not as much as having a fire hydrant shoveled that no one can actually get to.

Snow and more

RAWSTON, VISTA, GRANADA, MALVERNA, all side streets off Met Ave Roslindale are untouched, virginal, and breathlessly await the touch of hard steel....PLEASE come free us from our entrapment !!!!!

Readville

I drove down the mayor's street today & its plowed but its pretty much like everyone else's, kinda turned into a one way street if cars are parked. I will say I am less than a block from him & when the lights went out friday night i thought they would be out for at least 24 hours. At least that's what they said before the storm started. but the lights were back on with in 2 hours. If that is because of the mayor, I am thankful!

Yep, I drove down his street, too

And like you said: Plowed, but no better than anybody else's street - but with just enough room to get around the police detail that's always stationed there.

Then I went down to Readville station to try to take some pictures of the lights in the fog, but discovered my camera doesn't do well in such conditions and then an Acela train came through and blew my hat right off my head. The end.

Ain't got nothin' on Mayor Barry

When I lived in DC (a city notoriously bad at removing snow as it is) there was a bad storm and it was reported in the newspaper that there was a particular block in the city that they plowed into the neighborhood and halfway up a particular block before stopping, reversing course and leaving the neighborhood. Yup, they stopped immediately after plowing up to Hizzoner's house.

Only two feet of snow

Yeah, it was a lot of snow which fell all at once. However it was a lot of snow which fell all at once onto bare pavement. With a weeks notice. Over a weekend. Had any of those facts been different, such as with the second storm in '78, the fact that streets are still un-plowed and schools still closed 4 days later might be understandable. It seems that they did something different this time around, and the experiment failed miserably.

Did the driving ban play a role in delaying snow removal ops?

This is precisely the question that I have been asking. We have had worse storms than this, relatively recently, and things seem to be way more out of whack this time. Even in Brookline, where the omnipresent street parking ban usually leads to great road conditions quickly after storms, the response has been weaker than usual.

I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I spent enough time working in the public sector to imagine what could have happened in some cases: driving ban goes into effect pretty early on Friday. Employees not already at work say, "hey, I can't come in, there's a driving ban." (Nevermind whether they were exempt or not). That pushes snow removal effforts back by 12-18 hours, and pushes them into Sunday. Sunday means double time in almost any case, and since almost everyone is going to be on overtime anyway, you're looking at some people getting triple time. This might have even applied to private contractors in some cases (it depends on the contract).

I make no statment on the appropriateness or lack thereof of such behavior - after all, these people are no less susceptible to accidents driving in terrible conditions and were working pretty hard on long shifts after they got in. I mention it only because the driving ban, while preventing the kind of non-sensical crap we saw on Long Island, might have also worked to delay the reporting of some employees to their posts, and delayed snow removal operations.

snow removal

I don't understand the rationale that the streets would have been cleared sooner and better if more people were driving to work over the weekend. I believe it would have caused delays in plowing due to cars becoming stuck in the snow. Were you around in 1978 when it was virtually impossible to get around, and noone could drive - and get anywhere - for days.

I just want to know why so

I just want to know why so many streets never saw a plow during the entire storm, which (as others have pointed out) is different from what usually happens, even in heavy snows.

Why just give up on residential areas and side streets?

The snow was not heavy, and should have been easily removed from my street, if only the city had tried to clear the road before 6pm on Sunday.

violence is brewing

In addition to unplowed streets, I don't understand why they plowed so far from the sidewalk. The creation of "one-way" streets, such as Kittredge St. downhill from Met. Ave., is dangerous. If it's not a traffic accident or a pedestrian vs. car, it's grown men in the street shoving each other to the ground because no one wants to "take turns."

I'm leaning towards agreeing with the suggestion that the experiment failed.

From a public works employee friend of mine.....

The City has to get the main streets done first (and they have to get 2 lanes free), and didn't get this done the first two nights of the storm. If they don't get the multi lane roads done first, traffic becomes a nightmare for everyone on Monday. This would include the left/right turn lanes, which also cause a huge traffic jam if not plowed to the curb.

Then after about 30 or so striaght hours of work, some workers are sent home to sleep for 8 hours, and then brought in to start on the schools and public buildings that need to be open ASAP.

The side streets are the least priority, because they don't effect the public at large, don't cause traffic jams, and one or two swipes by a plow are deemed effecient. If they put more effort into the side streets, the multilane main roads get backed up and make it even that much worse for everyone.

Did anyone see what the Longwood Medical area looked like yesterday. Officially a shit show.

Here is the full text of Governor Patrick’s executive order:

I, Deval L. Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pursuant to the power provided by Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950 do hereby issue the following order:

There shall be a ban on motor vehicle travel beginning at 4:00 PM today and continuing until further notice. This travel ban shall not apply to the following: public safety vehicles and public safety workers, including contract personnel, public works vehicles and public works workers, including contract personnel; government officials conducting official business, utility company vehicles and utility workers; healthcare workers who must travel to and from work in order to provide essential health services; news media, travel necessary to maintain and deliver critical private sector services such as energy, fuel supplies and delivery, financial systems and the delivery of critical commodities, travel to support business operations that provide critical services to the public, including gasoline stations, food stores and hardware stores. Given this 8th day of February in the year of our Lord two thousand and thirteen at 12:15PM.

DEVAL L. PATRICK, GOVERNOR
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

No the ban had no effect on them.

Most of them live in the City, have pickup trucks with 4x4 drive,

Or they never went home after their morning shift on Friday, and/or were told to come in before the storm if they weren't working, so they would have been in work before the ban anyway.

I also drove around Boston during the ban Sat afternoon, and it was ok to drive on the main streets but really only for 1 lane.

The travel ban helped in my opinion, because I was able to keep a steady speed most of the way and didn't have to worry about slowing down at intersections too much and getting caught behind some idiot who wanted to go shovel out his mother after the first 15 inches fell.

I think it failed for a few reasons:

1. Failure to organize properly
2. Failure to supervise properly
3. Not enough manpower.

Ok, so the ban appears to have had nothing to do with it.

Thanks to you both - so we know that the travel ban will not be an excuse under contracts for any non-performance (now let's see if the various cities and towns or the Commonwealth actually take any action against their contractors in cases of non-performance or just let them slide).

So, any ideas why snow removal performace has been degraded compared to previous storms of this magnitude? As I said elsewhere, even in Brookline, where things are usually reasonably normal within 24-36 hrs even after the worst storms, things seem to have been a little lacking this time.

Brookline was probably effected by Boston and vice versa.

When the Green line trolleys in Cleveland Circle go through red lights and gridlock Chestnut Hill ave at Beacon St. during the summer it is annoying. When they do it on a day like yesterday, you can imagine what happened. This can effect Rt. 9 traffic all the way to Newton, since some of that spills down Hammond St. towards Beacon on the Newton Side.

Parker Hill Ave. will back down to Huntington, which will back up to that small hill at South Huntington. This backs up Rt. 9 (all the way up to the Chestnut Hill Ave. mess), Brookline Ave, the River way into the Medical area.

Each intersection gets gridlocked, sometimes from 1 car who can't make it up one small hill, and this gets added on by the guy who says "F it, I'm going through this red light, I don't care who I block".

Better than I thought it would be today though.