With the blizzard hitting the Northeast, the media are in full useless-detail reporting mode. One of those useless facts is that the City of Boston has 600 plows at its disposal. That seems like a lot. So I looked up the number for Minneapolis, which I recently argued was at the low end of the snow clearance scale. While Boston has about a 50% higher population, both cities are about 50 square miles (Minneapolis is slightly bigger, in fact—and has alleys to clear to boot). They boast on their website of the wide array of snow-clearing equipment at its disposal—which amounts to 119 plows. That’s less than a fifth of the number of plows in Boston. No wonder it seems they plow more here.
The Atlantic Cities looked at the number of plows
a few weeks ago. New York, which equips is garbage truck fleet with plows during large storms, boasts 7.37 plows per square mile, more than double any other city. That’s quaint. Boston didn’t report their data. That’s probably because Boston is off the charts: it nearly doubles New York
with an astounding 12.4! Here’s the Atlantic’s chart:
I’ve taken this and enhanced it in two ways. One, I’ve added Boston, because it is pretty much off the charts. Second, I’ve calculated the snow plows per 100 inches per square mile.
Boston stands out for the plows per square mile, but if you further normalize the data by the total snow received, it has some cities which are more equal. New York gets less than two thirds the snow, so it has almost as many plows. Philadelphia and DC get far less snow—less than half—and they are closer. It seems that cities in the northeast, where the ocean creates infrequent, but very heavy, snows (like the storm right now) invest a lot more in having a lot of plows at their disposal. Kansas City does too, although as a far less dense city it has many more lane miles to plow, apparently.
Or maybe in Boston, it’s just harder to plow all those streets that loop back on themselves (link not totally SFW).