Greater City Providence

This is how Boston gets it done

The Boston Globe reports today about Boston’s high-tech approach to enforcing snow removal laws.

Code inspectors have taken to the streets this winter with a new weapon, palm-size computers with touch screens that snap photographs of treacherous patches of ice, snow, and slush. Thumbnail images are stamped on tickets and printed instantly with a wireless 32-ounce printer slung over an officer’s shoulder like a purse.

Officials hope the immediacy of the photographs will act as a deterrent, reducing the number of slick sidewalks that twist ankles, flare tempers, and force some pedestrians to walk in the street, which can be dangerous. When property owners find a green envelope for a code violation stuffed under their doors, they are staring at evidence they will have to explain if they plan to appeal.

Read that second paragraph again. Officials hope this will reduce the number of slick sidewalks, injuries, and people forced to walk in the street. Not a crazy ranting blogger hopes, Officials hope. The government in Boston actually sees this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Who knew a city could be run like that?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I don’t know why Providence doesn’t enforce its laws. I truly believe that the city would not be in such a sad financial state if the laws such as snow removal and trash can removal were enforced. Not only would it give the city money from tickets, but it would make the city safer and better looking, increasing tourism in the tourist off-season.

    They should especially be going after businesses and absentee landlords. The Walgreens on Chalkstone shoveled a path only a shovel wide, meaning it’s about 1.5-2 feet wide, not meeting the city’s minimum 3 feet (which I think should be increased to 4 feet for true safety).

  • That’s fantastic, and would a system like that would pay for itself quickly in a winter like this. Unfortunately, our winters are too inconsistent for shoveling to become an ingrained habit.

    During my walk to KP in the morning, more often than not I need to walk in the street in front of doctors offices (1076 North Main) and residences (600 Hope St.). It’s not so bad at those points, but when I get closer to KP on Canal, it’s horribly dangerous.

  • Our winters are not so inconsistent that we ever go one without at least one snow event that requires shoveling. We just haven’t had too many that remained cold or dry enough to have the snow hang around for several weeks.

    Regardless, if there’s snow on them, sidewalks are dangerous. It’s kind of hard to blame inconsistent winters.

  • The overnight parking ban is ruthlessly enforced. Most fines are paid by students and other marginal types. The market price for off street overnight parking is inflated, to the benefit of well connected landlords.

    The sidewalk snow clearing ordinance is never enforced. Expect headlines if it ever is. Big well connected landlords are among the worst offenders. (Talking about you Carpionato!)

    Makes me wonder.

  • I have often wondered why Providence doesn’t enforce many of its laws, like trash issues, code enforcement, shoveling etc.

    I would get so sick of the teary-eyed speeches about how everyone has to sacrifice during this time of economic downturn and to expect that services (like libraries etc) would be curtailed, when an incredible untapped resource was usually just outside the door–literally.

  • Yes, Carpionato owns the Whole Foods Plaza on N Main, correct? They NEVER shovel the sidewalk in front. I had to walk in the street yesterday.

  • Whole Foods Plaza sidewalk now cleared, first time I can remember.
    Never underestimate the power of snarky blog comments?

  • The sidewalk on a strip of median at the S. Water/Benefit/Wickenden intersection (between the underpass and the Shell station) has never been cleared. It’s either walk through the snow where the sidewalk usually is, or walk on the side of a busy street. Does the city own this sidewalk?

  • I used to work in Davol Square and would take the trolley to Wickenden and walk over the Point Street Bridge to get there, except when there was snow on the ground when everything between Wickenden and Davol was completely impassable.