Abstract for: Exploring the Resilience of Bostonís Urban Snow Management Policies

Urban management professionals frequently face uncertain conditions when making decisions. Smart city efforts have helped provide additional data, but smarter systems are necessary to understand the delays and feedback loops of policy implementation.†As a case study of this phenomenon, we develop a simulation of Bostonís response to the record-breaking blizzards of Winter 2014-2015. Specifically, the paper investigates how operational levers responded to extreme snowfall events and what alternative scenarios may have reduced the cityís direct costs. The model, calibrated on the best available real-time dataset, finds that delayed municipal reactions compounded the negative impacts of exceptional and prolonged cold. Sensitivity analysis suggests that the amount of snow plowed into roadside banks was a tipping point for management strategies. Contrary to the cityís immediate and long-term response, improving the quality of plowing or the productivity of equipment will not ameliorate the consequences of low-probability snowfalls and winters. Instead, we recommend that the city consider investing in real options that allow it to expand snow farm capacity. This indicates urban planning strategies can play an important role in mitigating the variable costs of clearing winter precipitation.