The city of Seattle recently released an app for Android and iPhone devices that lets you conveniently photograph, map and then report issues such as abandoned vehicles, graffiti and potholes, the moment you see them.
Prior to the app’s release, your options were to make a phone call, show up in person at a city office or use a mobile-unfriendly online service request form.
While a PC-based online service request form is more detailed and has additional reporting options (the app will include an illegal dumping reporting option on an upcoming release), the app trumps that by eliminating the inconvenience of having to go home and plunk yourself down in front of a computer to make a report.
Since the app’s release a month ago, it’s been downloaded more than 2,800 times, but only about 1,80o requests have been made. About 44 percent have been for graffiti, 27 percent for “other,” 15 percent for potholes and the remainder for parking enforcement and abandoned vehicles.
The low number of requests to downloads ratio may be one indicator the app needs some work. Another one is Google Play Store comments and personal experience: Trying to make a graffiti report immediately after installing the app on a Samsung S3 Android phone caused the app to crash. After rebooting the phone, it showed the report had been submitted three times.
Perhaps the iPhone faithful are having a more bug-free experience…
Then there’s a point of confusion: Submitted requests are marked as “closed” before the reported issue is actually addressed.
For example, a graffiti report entered two weeks ago was marked as closed a few days later, yet the graffiti on some sidewalk ramps still remained as of earlier this evening, well beyond the city’s 10-day timetable for removing graffiti from it’s property in keeping with the Graffiti Nuisance Ordinance.
The “closed” indicator just means the report has been successfully handed off to the department that’s responsible for dealing with it, not that it’s actually complete, according to Katherine Schubert-Knapp, communications director for the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services.
“Several folks have asked about that, so we’re going to change some information on the website,” to explain it, Schubert-Knapp said. She went on to say it’s a limitation of the system the city is using to track the reports. In a follow-up email, she included some additional details:
When checking the status of a service request submitted through Find It, Fix It, the tracking information may show that the status is Closed. Closed indicates that the report has been accepted by the City of Seattle, though the graffiti removal may still be pending.
When graffiti is reported, the report is dispatched to the responsible agency for abatement. Because the various agencies use different systems and processes for managing the abatement of graffiti, we’re unable to give real-time status updates.
You can check on the status of any service request by calling the Customer Service Bureau at 684-2489 (CITY). Please be sure to have the service request number ready to expedite the process. You’ll find it listed at the top of the screen when you view your request on your mobile phone.
One hopes something can eventually be done to make the status of reports more clear on the app as well.
Despite the bumps, the app shows promise for making it easier for people to take simple actions to alert the city to issues that need attention.
Not into using an app? You can make reports in person at City Hall, a Neighborhood Service Center, over the phone at (206) 684-2489, or via that service request form on the City’s website.
For those of you who have tried the app, let’s offer our .02 cents to help the city make it better: What’s your take? What would improve it?