February 17, 2011 By Lauren Katims Nadeau
New York City has launched a new map to track citizens’ complaints and requests in real time as they’re entered through the city’s 311 service request program.
The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications says that in addition to promoting transparency, the map has the potential to be an important tool for intelligence gathering.
“Up until yesterday we looked at 311 as a method that disgruntled citizens would use to call us; we didn’t look at it as an opportunity for solutions,” New York City’s Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith said Wednesday,Feb. 16.
The 311 Service Request map provides the public with access to location-specific information about city complaints filed across 15 major categories, including air and water quality, construction, noise, animals, snow, streets and sidewalks, and transit and parking. The map is divided into 59 color-coded community boards, or civic associations, that reveal the volume of complaints filed there — the darker the color, the more complaints). The user can drill down and view the map by a specific address, intersection, community board, city council district or ZIP code.
By clicking on a selected location, users can view a list of the service requests for the past year and the steps taken to resolve the condition. No customer account or other potentially sensitive information is displayed on the map.
The map software is leveraged from the NYCitymap technology, the city’s online map portal that was created in 2006 and allows users to take a bird’s-eye view of city amenities like transportation hubs, libraries, schools, hospitals and parks on top of a map of the city, similar to Google maps.
The idea to use this technology for the 311 program stemmed from the concept that if everyone could see complaints being filed in real time, then maybe someone could help find a solution based on that person’s location or knowledge, Goldsmith said. The 311 program receives an average of 60,000 calls and 8,000 website visits each day. About 20 percent of all calls result in creation of service requests, which are filed with city agencies to address.
“The more people that look at the data, the more likely they are to find some way that we can effectively resolve it,” Goldsmith said.
Several U.S. cities have incorporated online functionality for the public into their 311 systems. Many of them give users the ability to follow up on the status of service tracking numbers, as is the case for NYC 311. However, New York City is thought to be one of the first — if not the first — to offer interactive mapping capabilities.
“The way we are going to do ours is probably the most aggressive” in terms of transparency and offering the most detailed information about 311,Goldsmith said.
He added that development of a second version of the map will soon be under way that will allow individuals and organizations to extract and analyze data. Officials hope to discover trends that potentially could lower the number of service requests submitted, consequently making the city more efficient.
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