Finally, New York City’s new 311 call center is getting a little bit of press. I had the chance to talk with one of the developers of the service at a party a month ago, and learned that it came about as a result of our current mayor walking down a street during his campaign and noticing a fire hydrant leaking into a basement. He asked his aides who the owner would call to get the problem fixed, and was given a variety of possibilities — the fire department, the buildings department, the landlord of the building — and then when he learned that the real answer was the Department of Environmental Protection, he decided that there needed to be a centralized way for a NYC resident to get answers like this, not to mention to take care of the problems themselves. The city brought 311 online on March 9th, but didn’t advertise it at all, instead allowing agencies to start directing calls its way as their functions were centralized. And most interesting to me, any issue that isn’t completed by the end of the phone call is issued a tracking number, allowing callers to get status updates on the solutions to their problems. Bloomberg’s invested a lot of time and money in creating the 311 service, and it looks like it could revolutionize the relationship between NYC government agencies and their constituents.

(One interesting factoid: 212-NEW-YORK is the phone number people would use to access 311 outside of New York City. Cool!)


Chicago’s had 311 for a while now. It came online amid, or just following, a big to-do about 911 response times and aftereffects of the big heat emergency. We had Da Mare (Daley the Younger) on tv several times, slamming his fist into the lectern, “People gotta call 311! They know what’s an emergency and what isn’t!” It seems to work pretty well and a number of suburbs have adopted it as well.

• Posted by: Dan Hartung on May 1, 2003, 2:37 AM
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