Baltimore’s new 311 app doesn’t include the gold mine of publicly viewable requests

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A still from the new 311 app, sampling the “Alley Repair” function.

There’s a new 311 mobile app in town, and while it’s meant to streamline the process of reporting municipal non-emergency problems to the city, it doesn’t include the years-old treasure trove of assorted publicly viewable tickets.

The old app, developed by New Hampshire software firm Connected Bits, presented all of the open and recent service requests put forth by Baltimoreans for all to see, ranging from commonplace irritations like high grass, litter and abandoned vehicles to oddities involving animals (or their droppings), creative or brash takes on real problems and just plain old nonsense. There was a shared utility in this, both for internet kicks and the ability to track complaints of real concern submitted by other people.

The new app, designed by Salesforce in San Francisco, includes none of this presently, and instead offers two simple buttons to make a request or the check the status of one. Under the “request” function are dozens of options, from parking complaints to downed trees to damaged street poles. To make a request, a user has to type in a specific address and file their complaint under one of the listed categories (or choose “other”).

Some locals cried foul at the app’s rollout this past weekend, saying the address search function wasn’t working or that the map was outdated.

Basic issues, like the one with the address search, have since been resolved. Mayor’s office spokesman James Bentley said in an email that the app temporarily “lost connectivity to the city GIS locator” from 4 to 6 p.m. As for the map being outdated, he said the new app uses an “open source map allowing citizens to be engaged and correct or add information.”

Some are still complaining the app lacks user-friendly functions, such as storing a user’s information so they don’t have to type it all over again for a new request, or showing the outcome of a ticket once it’s closed.

James said they plan to “enhance communications with the public concerning service request life cycle.” As for the ability to see others’ requests, Bentley said that’s coming “at a later date,” but assured that that function and the accompanying “image stream” containing photos from complaints will be added.

Baltimore was the first city to implement its own 311 system for residents to report non-emergencies. Last year, the city paid $1.6 million to Salesforce to upgrade the system, citing “increasing performance/support issues and significant inabilities to leverage citizen-preferred communications channels such as the web, mobile and social networks.” It also mentioned a “premium cost associated with keeping the old technology alive.”

The new app is part of these upgrades.

We can offer this silver lining to those who don’t like it: For the time being, you can still see other requests populate on the old 311 website, which means you can still keep an eye out for choice graffiti or inventive ways to complain about municipal issues.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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1 COMMENT

  1. Good grief Charlie Brown! The old App was a joy—easy to use, easy to add a photo, easy to view status, easy to
    drag the geo-locator marker to input the address. How the City could take something that worked so well and
    completely ruin it–no doubt at significant taxpayer expense—is beyond me. This is definitely a case of
    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Good job–NOT!

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