An indispensable infrastructure that is applicable to all of us during the winter months here in Ann Arbor is the snow removal system. With the large amount of snow that falls in Michigan, such a system is essential for daily operations to function successfully.
According to Paul Edwards, infrastructure is defined as “basic systems and services that are reliable, standardized, and widely accessible, at least within a community…Our civilizations fundamentally depend on them, yet we notice them mainly when they fail” (Edwards pg. 8). Snow removal systems tend to fit such a description, though they do vary by location and the group that organizes the clean up. However, a successful snow removal system does in fact cause people to take clear roads after a snow storm for granted and only notice the infrastructure if it fails and is unable to clear the roads, detrimentally affecting people living in those areas.
The bottom layer of a snow removal system is the accumulation of snow on a surface, which varies by location and instance. The top layer is the people living in areas with snow fall. The middleware layer consists of all the services and functions that serve to prevent and remove snow from the ground. Trucks that anticipate snowfall spread salt across all surfaces in order prevent the snow from sticking. Snow plows remove large amounts of snow after it has fallen, while snow blowers and shovels are used for smaller areas of snow such as a sidewalk or driveway. As part of the middleware layer, these act as the “’glue’” (middleware.org) between the snow-covered ground and ability to walk during such weather.
Such a system is standardized in that salt is always spread across surfaces prior to acknowledgement of a snow fall approaching and snow plows always begin their work of clearing the snow following the last snow flake. The system varies in that some areas react to the clearing of the snow more quickly than others. For instance, Ann Arbor snow is cleared faster than others as a university is located here, while my home town in Maryland takes longer to clear the snow and does not make it as high of a priority. Additionally, some areas have heated sidewalks and roads that are active during cold months to serve as another prevention method while other areas do not.
The success of a snow removal system is crucial to the functioning of other infrastructures. For instance, here at University of Michigan, clear roads and sidewalks after every inch of snow allows our education system to work properly by enabling faculty and students to travel to class. Additionally, the snow removal infrastructure also enables transportation infrastructures, such as roadways and bridges, to run smoothly.