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Boston snowplow locator website goes offline

On Friday, the city of Boston unveiled a webpage that allowed curious citizens to track the locations of snowplows all over the city. But the site was taken down hours later following a wave of heavy web traffic that interfered with the city’s public works monitoring system, a spokeswoman for the mayor said today.

The site had soft runs during prior snow events this season, but yesterday was the first time the city promoted the site through social media, said Emilee Ellison, spokeswoman for the office of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, in a short interview this morning.

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“It got a ton of traffic and was working for a time,” Ellison said.

Late this morning, the site was still down, but the city is working to revive the webpage in a way that does not meddle with the public works department’s operations. Similar, but more sophisticated software, has been used by city managers for the past three winters.

The city hopes that when they work the kinks out, the technology can help improve government efficiency.

In the statement, the city said the system has saved taxpayers $250,000 because it allowed managers to direct the GPS-equipped vehicles to where they were needed most, and by cutting down on “unsubstantiated idle time’’ among public and private snowplow operators.

“We want to give residents a look at what’s being done on their behalves, and this technology takes them right into the command centers of our public works yards,’’ Menino said in a statement.

The city calls the site an “online portal” that shows the real-time location of all city and contractor snowplows. The site can also track where calls for service have been received on the City Hall 24-hour hotline at 617-635-4500.

“The men and women of the Public Works Department spend hundreds of hours each winter keeping the roads safe for Boston residents,” Public Works Commissioner Joanne Massaro said in a statement. “This will provide citizens a clearer view into the work we do and the cutting-edge technology we’re using to improve it.”

The tool can be found at this link, which featured an error message late this morning.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Chris Stuck-Girard can be reached at chrisstuckgirard@gmail.com.
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