Oakland maps a clean streets strategy
The Oakland (Calif.) Public Works Agency began a program in summer 1999 to help clean up the city’s dirty streets. The program, called Grime Busters, involved the installation of GPS receivers in some of the agency’s street sweepers and registration with a Web-based fleet management service that allowed agency staff to monitor the vehicles. The program has made the public works crew more efficient and has helped reduce resident complaints.
Robert Tillman, Oakland’s daytime public works supervisor for street sweeping, says that he used to search for sweepers’ broom tracks to follow up on residents’ claims that city crews had ignored their neighborhoods. “Our sweepers can’t clean if there are cars parked along the curb,” Tillman says. “When the cars are eventually moved, it looks like the street hasn’t been swept, and we get phone calls.” Residents also complained that the sweepers traveled too fast and did not pick up all the debris on the streets.
Prior to Grime Busters, Tillman had to rely on radio contact with his employees to ensure that they were doing their jobs properly. “That didn’t allow the flexibility to chart the drivers,” he says. “In the case of a citizen complaint, all we had was the driver’s word.”
The agency decided to register for mobile resource management from @Road, a Fremont, Calif.-based Internet services company. The agency registered for the company’s Web-based fleet management service and installed its Internet Location Modems with GPS receivers on 28 street sweepers.
The GPS receivers collect information from satellites and calculate the vehicles’ position, speed and direction. The modems transmit the vehicles’ data to the Web site, which displays that information on city maps. The Web site uses San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk’s MapGuide software and plug-in to process and reassemble the vehicle and map data for display on Internet browsers.
To monitor his fleet, Tillman simply goes to the Web site, types in his password and gets a detailed report documenting the routes taken by the sweepers and trucks. He can view a map of his entire fleet or zoom in to a small area on the map surrounding a single vehicle. “The program saves time,” he says. “Usually, I can check out complaints from my desk rather than chasing down brush marks on a curb.”