I’ve always been critical of Philly311.
Like Big Belly trashcans, it works better in theory.
Calling 311 has never led me anywhere near the department or answer to my question that I’d been looking for. Only to a seemingly confused receptionist that I imagine is referencing an outdated one-sheet of city departments and nonexistent extensions.
To be fair, that was a couple of years ago.
More recently the city’s foray into technological responsiveness and transparency may actually be working to the advantage of residents.
Here in Philly we don’t have four seasons. We only have two: winter and road construction.
It’s been a mild winter.
In terms of street damage the lack of snow means less water freezing and thawing in the cracks of the streets and less salt and brine to exacerbate the issue. So unless Floridian sinkholes begin turning up, this spring should be smoother than in years past.
But inevitably, potholes happen. It’s the city and sometimes the road more traveled can be a bumpy one.
I’m a writer. Which means I sit online all day and read the Internet. All of it. Every day. In bits and pieces, headlines and tweets. Sometimes I’m impressed. Generally I’m not. Like I said – I’m a writer. And a Philadelphian. Which means I’m a skeptic.
But today, I was genuinely impressed.
A person tweets a pothole picture/location to a neighborhood association twitter handle. Neighborhood association tweets the issue to Philly311.
Not only does the attentive employee manning Philly311’s twitter account pass the issue onto the Streets Department, accomplishing what years of messages left on unmanned phone lines have seemingly never been able to do. But they also had a moment to respond to my undeniably snide inquisition as to how long the process of fixing said pothole would actually take.
Long story short:
If you see a pothole, and tweet its location to @Philly311, they will respond with a Streets Department tracking number of the complaint and a link where you can follow along with the progress, online.
“Initial complaints will be investigated within 24 hours” and the hole will be “made safe.”
Though permanent repairs don’t begin until the threat of snow is long gone – usually in April, this immediate attention is a thing of beauty… in theory, at least.
Like I said, I’m a skeptic.
But hey, if a tweet can get a pothole filled in within 24 hours, just imagine the possibilities.