Monday, June 11, 2007

The 311 On New 24-hour Hotline

Mayor Gavin Newsom promises that callers who dial 311 can reach a human being 24 hours a day.

The new hotline staffed by dozens of live operators will allow San Franciscans to access a vast array of city services and information — from finding the best Muni routes and schedules, graffiti removal, where to get a flu shot, reporting a double-parked car or contacting government offices.

Now up and running, the system will eventually replace the existing 2,300 numbers available to access city services, Mayor Gavin Newsom said, with all calls going through the new 311 number. Let's put 311 to the test:
The Sidewalk Test:

Last weekend 5-star restaurant, Flor de Lys, bottlenecked my sidewalk
with two humongous planters, I didn’t hesitate to call. The blockages were
removed the following day.

The Homeless Man Test:

This weekend a homeless man squatted too close to my home, stretching a clothesline across a doorway to drape an assortment of blankets for a makeshift barricade capped at both ends with a bay carriage and shopping cart bookends… and a pickle jar urine sample a foot away for all pedestrians to step over. I placed the call and he was gone within the hour.

Operators use a specially created computer program that guides them through the myriad requests and questions callers might have, popping up the appropriate computer screen of information and placing a tracking number on each call, which city officials say will guarantee that follow-up is done.

That data can also be used to see what services are most requested and where resources are needed most, Newsom said.
“This is more than just a switchboard for information. This system is a record management system that allows government to be more accountable, more transparent, and allows policymakers to govern The City in a more effective manner.” - Mayor Gavin Newsom

The idea to route nonemergency city service calls through a three-digit hotline is not new. In the last decade, cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Dallas and Minneapolis have implemented 311 systems.

For the complete article: Newsom: Call 311, get a live operator 24 x 7 by Bonnie Eslinger, The Examiner.

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