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Pittsburgh’s 311 Response System Slated for Decades-Overdue Facelift

Even in 2014, fulfilling a request for service made to the city of Pittsburgh’s 311 Response Center involves data entry and paper printouts. But all that is about to change.

The city’s 311 Response Center system, which allows citizens to request that potholes be filled, buildings be inspected, or streetlight bulbs be changed, is slated to get a major upgrade.

“The current system we’re using was an old Oracle database we’ve had since the late 1980s,” said Wendy Urbanic, director of 311. “It’s been modified, and I have to give my colleagues a lot of kudos. They have added bells and whistles and done the best they could.”

The new system, from Qscend Technologies, comes with a three year contract and at a price tag of $73,200 in 2014 and $44,700 in 2015 and 2016.

Urbanic said the new software will be more convenient and efficient for residents, 311 staff, and department staff fulfilling requests.

“The new system is actually going to bypass 311 in a lot of cases, where people can put in a request on the mobile app, and it will go directly to the workers in the truck filling that pothole, or whatever the request type is,” Urbanic said.

Residents will be able to easily log into the system to check the status of each request, which Urbanic said will save her staff a lot of time and energy. People can also get real time text or e-mail updates on the status of each request.

“We do have a lot of very active citizens who submit hundreds of requests,” Urbanic said. “They’ll be all to have a log of every request they submit and check the progress of all of them.”

The director said the current system also does not collapse multiple requests for the same service into one request.

“So we could have eight requests for the same pothole and that’s eight pieces of paper that they have to juggle in the field,” Urbanic said. “With this software, it will combine all those duplicates, so the workers get one request, but every citizen who wants to be notified will get that notification.”

City Council preliminarily approved the contract with Qscend Technologies last week, and is expected to take a final vote on Tuesday.

Urbanic said once they receive final approval, it will take just 10 weeks to implement the system, though they will continue to expand and improve the system.

The new software is also compatible with the city’s Open Data system, which will allow the public to search for and download data on the number and type of service requests, response time, and other information.

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.