Jesse Bounds talks about the “311 volley” at the last OpenGov Meetup.
Update September 14: One month later and the Service Tracker is now live. Input your SR number and watch its status (hopefully) change.
At the August OpenGov Meetup, Jesse Bounds, developer with Code for America, demonstrated some of the tools to interface with “Open 311” that are available now for many cities around the country to improve city services data collection and presentation. John Tolva, Chicago’s Chief Technology Officer working with Bounds and other Code for America fellows, said that a read and write programming interface for developers will be available “in weeks, not months”.
You can view two of the tools now, but neither show information from Chicago until the launch. They’re part of “311 Labs”: The Daily Brief, and Open 311 Status – both of these are designed for non-developers. Bounds also showed off the “311 Service Request Tracker”, which was designed after shipping company package tracking websites. It shows step-by-step the process for a citizen’s request for service.
Each call to 311 in Chicago is categorized by a type code. For the launch of Open 311, only 14 type codes will be available. “Pothole” and “Street Cut Complaints” will be included. One of the tools Bounds demonstrated is what he calls the “tennis volley”. It shows a call for service coming in, and how it might bounce around to different city departments. The example case was a pothole or sewer cave-in that bounced between the Transportation department and the Water Management department.
I made a call to 311 a couple of days after the meeting, informing the city that all southbound lanes of Milwaukee Avenue south of Ogden Avenue had the pavement cut out, and there was no warning to the harsh bumps on either side and the rough, grooved surface. The grooves can catch bike tires and cause the less experienced to fall. (There’s a lawsuit against the city right now from a crash like that in 2009 on Wrightwood Avenue.) The process for service request #12-01416500 went like this:
- Accepted on August 7, 2012, at 9:59 PM
- Coded as Street Cut Complaints.
- Given to Chicago Department of Transportation, Division of Infrastructure Management, Public Way Management, with the comment, “Traffic Lane – there aren’t any signs”.
- Work was assigned at 4:53 PM the next day.
- The request was closed at the same time work was assigned.
I haven’t returned to the scene in question since then to know if anything has changed (I reported the address as 740 N Milwaukee). All of this information, about all 311 type codes (14 at launch), will be available to the public on a website. The programming interface for developers will give them the ability to create alternative websites and their own apps that read the same information and present it differently, collect stats on speed of service, or build for mobile devices that allow Chicagoans to bypass making a tedious phone call and input the information directly.