Chicago calls for 311 system update


Mackenzie Crosson

Chicago is revamping its 311 system to provide for visual ways to report complaints. Residents will be able to rate their satisfaction level with the timeliness and quality of the repairs. 

By Blaise Mesa

Chicago’s 311 service request system will soon be revamped to provide residents with more options to report complaints and communicate with the city.

Chicagoans will be able to take pictures of problems, tweet or use 311’s mobile app to report needs for service they find around the city. After making a complaint, residents will be able to track its progress within the system and provide feedback on the process, according to an April 25 video posted on the Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s YouTube page. 

Danielle DeMerer, CIO and commissioner of the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology did not respond to request for comment on the project’s release as of press time. 

“We are excited about the new system,” DeMerer said in the video announcement. “It’s going to be a system built with Chicagoans for Chicagoans. We are going to create a more efficient and effective system that’s transparent.” 

The new system could be successful because it takes advantage of cell phone technology and a picture of a problem is more useful than a simple description, said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former 44th Ward alderman. 

This system also provides greater accountability because it tracks service satisfaction, Simpson said.

“When citizens complain about a problem, there wouldn’t be any way of knowing whether [it] was taken care of in a timely manner, except departmental reports,” he said. Simpson also noted that departmental reports can be and have been falsified before. 

Dana Aviles, a senior theatre major who has filed multiple complaints with 311, is in favor of the 311 updates because she said the improvements could have helped her in past situations. 

Aviles and her mother have called 311 after garbage in her neighborhood was not picked up and a light was out in her alleyway earlier this year. Despite following up with 311 multiple times, the city services took about three months to fix the light and two weeks for the garbage to be taken, she said. 

These situations could have led to bigger problems, and it is upsetting the city did not provide a faster solution, Aviles said. 

While Aviles said she thinks the new system will provide faster services, Simpson noted that even though it may use technological advancements, it still relies on city departments to make the repairs, which may be ineffective. 

“There are thousands of potholes that need be fixed in the city,” he said. “Whether you call in an address or send them a photograph, the issue is the pothole has to be repaired.” 

Evelyn Washington, chairwoman for the Senior Advisory Board for the City of Chicago, does not have a Twitter account and said not everyone may be able to use the new features. She said the city should provide classes to teach residents how to use the new services, similar to teaching computer classes. 

The new system might go operational without the need to hire new employees, but the re-training of employees is the real issue, Simpson said.

“It’s potentially a good system but only if all the other parts are working,” Simpson said. “The more methods you have the better.”