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City Overhauls 311 Non-Emergency Center With New Software, App

Mike Richards
90.5 WESA

Friday is 3/11 and to celebrate, the city's Department of Innovation and Performance unveiled new software and a mobile app for Pittsburgh’s 311 response center.

The new customer management software is designed to improve transparency and speed for everyone from city residents to city workers to 311 operators when it comes to handling non-emergency situations.

“It transitions from three separate databases to one," said Kevin Acklin, chief of staff for mayor Bill Peduto. "It allows for better mapping and geo-routing, better feedback and responses among city departments [and] integration with Allegheny County.” 

Within the new software, city residents can create individual accounts so they can track requests they’ve submitted. There’s also a corresponding responder app that allows 311 workers in the field to receive and complete requests in real time, according to 311 Manager Wendy Urbanic.

Credit Mike Richards / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
A screenshot of Pittsburgh's 311 app in action.

In the past, operators would have to shuffle through multiple databases or books and navigate the different street maintenance divisions or police zones, Urbanic said. There were also no resources to contact people and let them know the status of the request.

“Our current system is much more streamlined," she said. "Folks submit their request, it is automatically routed to the proper department and our citizens are notified right away: via text, email or even a phone call.”

The “MyBurgh” mobile app is the “crown jewel” of the 311 overhaul, she said, and better connects citizens to city services. The app features an option to pinpoint where a request originates.

“So if they don't have an exact address -- maybe it's a vacant lot, maybe they're in the middle of Frick park -- they can just use a pin to show where the issue is, and they have the ability to choose whichever response method works for them whether they want to call, text or email,” Urbanic said.

The free app is available for both iPhone and Android users. It allows residents to submit and track the progress of service requests, includes city news feeds, a button to call the 311 number, trash pick-up information and seasonal tools like the snow plow tracker.

Urbanic said the revamp addresses one of respondents’ biggest complaints: duplicate requests. In the past, workers might get 15 separate requests to fix a pothole. Now, all of the requests will be linked together and any update or information on the request will update as a whole.

Chief Innovation and Performance Officer Debra Lam said that the old system was paper-based, even employing the occasional post-it note. Things could get lost, she said.

“Now we have a centralized database where we can be held accountable, and we know exactly the minute that you called where you're calling from and what the issue is," Lam said. "Then we can track it, and we can respond to you in a timely fashion so that we can manage your expectations.”

The new system and app are part of a three-year, $162,000 contract approved by City Council and the Mayor in October 2014.