Chicago has been working to make it easier to keep track of your tax dollars at work. You can track buses, trains, snow plows…and now pothole repairs, graffiti clean-up, street light changes and more with 311 Service Tracker, part of the city’s new Open311 program. (LINKS)

Now, when you report some of the most requested city services, you’ll get a tracking number. Just plug this number in at to track the progress of your request and sign up for an email alert for when it’s finished, just like tracking a UPS package.

This will impact the lives of Chicagoans with service requests greatly because now you can constantly check the status of your request. Once a report is filed, the user will receive a number that allows them to check on the status of their request and see how close it is to completion. This not only helps you hold the City accountable, but will also help to improve efficiencies. Consider this: Each year, the 311 call center receives 2 million calls about the 14 most requested services. 40% of these calls are residents checking on the status of a service. As more Chicagoans use Service Tracker instead of calling, 311 operators can work more efficiently and reduce call times.

Open311 is also a completely open platform, meaning that developers can build apps that tie directly into the 311 system. Alderman Pewar used this tool to build Chicago Works, an iPhone app that allows you to submit service requests and pictures of the problem. These are pictures extremely valuable to City departments. Take potholes, for example.

Before Photo Submissions

  1. 311 receives report of pothole
  2. Report goes to the Dept of Transportation (CDOT)
  3. CDOT crews discover the “pothole” is actually a caved in sewer
  4. CDOT crews report it to the Water Dept
  5. Water Dept sends out crew
  6. Sewer fixed
  7. Residents rejoice

Now, what if that report came in with a photo?

  1. 311 receives report of pothole with a photo
  2. Photo shows sewer cave in, not a pothole, and report goes to Water Dept
  3. Water Dept sends out crew
  4. Sewer fixed
  5. Residents rejoice, City saves resources, tax payers save money, road returns to normal

We’ll keep you posted on more applications we find that leverage Open311. Stay tuned…

NOTE: If you would like to make a service request the old fashioned way, you can always call 311 or your alderman’s office and file one via telephone. You can find your ward’s alderman here.

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