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In light of the recent snow storms that have inundated Rutgers University and the city of New Brunswick, I have decided to address the issue of snow removal in our community and how we can be better prepared for the next snowfall. Just from walking around New Brunswick this week, I have noticed that, although the majority of roads are (finally) cleared, it is apparent that limited priority is given to pedestrians and bicyclists. Snow is plowed from the traveling lanes in the road and pushed between parked cars on the side of the road and onto sidewalks. Since the initial plowing, a lot of sidewalks were left untreated both on and off campus. As a result, in order to get to and from his or her destination, many students and residents were (and still are) forced to walk through snow, on icy sidewalks, and in some cases, in the road with automobile traffic. Furthermore, even when some snow was cleared at Rutgers campus bus stops, the job was half completed, occasionally resulting in students having to walk through a snow/ice mound when getting on and off the bus. Not only is this an inconvenience for the 70,000 daily campus bus riders, but it is also a major public safety issue.

Snow piled up onto a parked car and sidewalk on Bartlett St.

Snow piled onto a parked car and sidewalk on Bartlett St (February 18, 2014).

Providence, Rhode Island is the largest city in its state with a population of roughly 178,000 people. New Brunswick has one-third the population as Providence, but both are industrial cities that are struggling to make a comeback after decades of urban decay, declining populations, and neglect. However, New Brunswick and Providence are both home to large institutions that attract the “creative class” and invest in local infrastructure. Providence is home to Brown University, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Women and Infant’s Hospital, and Rhode Island Hospital. New Brunswick is home to Rutgers University, Johnson & Johnson, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

After attending high school in Providence for four years and living and working in the city for two years, I have become well-accustomed to how Providence functions. Within the past decade, there has been a great deal of physical and political redevelopment in the city. Although the same can be said (to a degree) for New Brunswick, I have noticed that Providence has a much greater focus on “creative placemaking,” good urban design, and promoting walkability. In a sense, from my perspective, Providence is going through its own mini-City Beautiful Movement; something that I think someone should try to jumpstart in New Brunswick. I suppose addressing the snow removal issue would be a good way to start. Although it’s in my opinion that Providence is much farther along in its urban revitalization process, I see the similarities between my former hometown and New Brunswick; and I think that New Brunswick could learn a thing or two from a larger city that has already done a lot of the trial and error process.

When it comes to snow removal, Providence is really getting it down. This is partly because urbanists and active members of the community, such as Jef Nickerson, have seen the problem, thought up some solutions, and have applied pressure to local politicians to enact and enforce policies that address the problem. When a person does a Google search for “snow removal New Brunswick NJ,” the only results are for some local private snow removal companies. However, when a person does a Google search for “snow removal Providence RI,” the first result is of a special section of the City of Providence website that solely discusses how the city deals with snow removal.

Snow plows clearing Memorial Blvd, a main arterial road in Downtown Providence.

Snow plows clearing Memorial Blvd, a main arterial road in Downtown Providence.

According to the website, “the Providence Public Works Department is responsible for clearing snow and ice on more than 421 miles of City-maintained roads in the City of Providence.” The city has a method for clearing roads that is outlined in three steps at http://providenceri.com/snowready. The website states, “the first priority for city crews during and immediately after a snowfall is to clear priority roads, including major arterial streets, bus routes, bus stops, and roads that access fire stations and hospitals. The second priority is to clear collector streets and routes leading to schools. Once conditions have been stabilized on first- and second-priority routes, crews will begin to clear local streets.” Despite the fact that this in no unique strategy, I felt it is important to point out that Providence has a website that aims to answer and address a citizen’s questions and concerns regarding how the city removes snow and how the snow affects other services such as trash collection.

Pedestrians face this hazardous obstacle course at the intersection of Bartlett St and Sicard St as of February 18th, 2014.

Pedestrians face this hazardous obstacle course at the intersection of Bartlett St and Sicard St (February 18, 2014).

More importantly, part of Providence’s snow removal strategy is the use of citywide parking bans. Prior to an expected snowfall, the city will announce a parking ban that temporarily prohibits any parking on public roads in order to keep roadways clear for snowplows to work, and give priority to emergency vehicles. During the ban, citizens are expected to find their own accommodations for parking his or her vehicle(s) onto private property or designated parking areas, such as parking garages. Failure to move a vehicle off the public road will result in a fine and/or getting towed.

Although the parking ban helps with road clearance and accessibility of emergency crews, it does little to address the issue of snow/ice removal from sidewalks. As a result, the city of Providence has enacted a strictly enforced policy (City Ordinance Sections 23-13 to 23-17) that requires residents and business owners to clear snow and ice on sidewalks adjacent to their property. Failure to follow this policy will result in a fine. The city’s website states, “property owners are required to remove snow and ice from sidewalks, catch basins, fire hydrants and pedestrian ramps adjacent to their property. Fines will be imposed on person(s) depositing snow onto any street, highway or public place that has already been plowed.” Although this policy and the parking ban are somewhat of a burden and/or inconvenience on individuals, it is one that is taken on by all citizens that promotes the betterment of the city as a whole. With everyone participating and following the policies, snow and ice are cleared faster and more efficiently from roadways and sidewalks. Not only is it safer to travel via car or on foot sooner after the storm ends, but the policies are also beneficial to the local economy because residents can get to and from businesses, work, and school with minimal fear of injury. New Brunswick should take note.

For more information on snow removal in Providence, Rhode Island: http://providenceri.com/efile/1827

A narrowly cleared sidewalk and another buried car on Bartlett St (February 18, 2014).

A narrowly cleared sidewalk and another buried car on Bartlett St (February 18, 2014).