While one would think it asking for trouble, NYT reports good results from Bloomberg’s whiners hotline:

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that the city was adopting a 311 hot line for public complaints, he promoted it as a way to help New Yorkers navigate the hurdle-strewn path to city services.

But in the nine months it has been active, 311 has become that and much more. In ways large and small, city officials are using information gathered through the 311 system to re-examine how city agencies carry out their jobs.

When pothole complaints started pouring into 311 after a harsh winter, Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner, dispatched an extra 150 workers to pothole duty, and the backlog of complaints has dropped to 975 from 3,000.

After irate residents reported problems with noise, double parking, public urination and disorderly youths over the summer, law enforcement officials used 311 technology to map out complaints by neighborhood and track down their source: illegal social clubs.

And after the 311 system made clear that more than one agency was responsible for responding to common problems – like missing manhole covers and obstructed signs – city officials assigned a primary agency to handle each kind of complaint, eliminating much of the confusion and the delays of the past.

For the first time, the 311 system is drawing together in one place all the complaints, commentary and other myriad bits of information that used to trickle in on scraps of paper and through hundreds of phone lines spread out across city agencies.

The people who run the system are then using sophisticated computer technology to analyze this trove of information provided by the public, churning out reams of data that provide statistical snapshots of city services.

In practical terms, this means that city officials can now look across the broad scope of their operations and allocate their resources more quickly and efficiently to address residents’ needs and problems.

Interesting–this could catch on.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Anderson, RI USA says:

    You mean the paving one city department finished two days ago might not be dug up tomorrow? Bus stops on a route that cannot be used for two years owing to massive re-construction of the freeway will actually mean stops on the new route before the old one is in use again?