The Snow-Eating (-Flinging, -Melting, -Destroying) Machines Philly Ought to Have

If we had some of the snow-removal technology that's common elsewhere, your kids would probably be at school right now.

snow plough

Mega snow plows and snow blowers at Helsinki airport, which has not shut down in years, even in the biggest storms.

All night long—and all day Friday too, probably—dutiful city workers atop garbage trucks and general-service maintenance vehicles jerry-rigged with snowplows will do their best to clear the eight inches that fell on Philadelphia and most of its suburbs Thursday.

We’re not here to bash them. They work hard, merciless shifts in lousy conditions, on equipment that’s just not optimized for this sort of duty. And, well, the results typically show that, right? Philadelphia snow removal is—and we’re being kind here—imperfect.

But feast your eyes on this:

Or this:

And, oh my god, this:


Yes please.

Yeah, those are just geothermal heated streets in Reykjavik, Iceland. Heated streets. Sidewalks too, of course.

It doesn’t feel like it today, of course—actually it hasn’t felt this way in years—but the Philadelphia region probably doesn’t get enough snowfall to justify big public sector investment in equipment like this…

or this… (actually, PennDOT does have at least one of these beasts below—they go for about $100,000 apiece; just for the super plow tow attachment.)

But it sure would be handy—and probably not prohibitively expensive—to have a few of these nimble creatures working publicly-owned sidewalks or the narrow alleys of Manayunk and South Philly, like they do in Montreal.

Sidewalk Snow Removal

Photo Credit: Simon Law, Creative Commons License

And surely Philadelphia can mange to put together a real-time, GPS enabled snowplow tracker, like Chicago and New York already have.

Screenshot 2015-03-05 21.04.49

And just maybe, someday, it will make sense to heat the sidewalks in Philadelphia’s busiest neighborhoods. Alas, unlike Reykjavik, there’s no viable volcano-enriched geothermal option available to U.S. cities. But carbon tape can do the job, if it gets cheap enough.

Alternatively—and we strongly recommend that Boston officials start saying this was their plan all along—we could embrace our powdery gifts from above, and use the drifts to create daring new urban playgrounds, as a creative designer suggests…

Screenshot 2015-03-05 21.31.04

“Second Hinterlands” concept screenshot from designer Natalya Egon.

No? Not your bag? Well, there’s always the Philadelphia way.

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