Dear PoPville – Is the 311 App Actually Improving Efficiency?

Photo by PoPville flickr user johnmcochran2012

Dear PoPville,

A few weeks ago I used the 311 iPhone app to schedule a bulk trash pickup. My wife and I just moved in together and I was getting rid of some of my old furniture. Using the app, I submitted my request and I received an email immediately with my scheduled pickup date – July 9th. Nearly two weeks went by and we finally moved the bulk items to the front curb (we don’t have an alley on our block). On Monday morning (our regular trash day, for what it’s worth) DPW came and took approximately half of the bulk items. Frustrated, I called 311. The rep claimed that DPW probably ran out of space in the truck and she rescheduled another pickup for the next morning. Today, DPW either didn’t come or they came but didn’t take the rest of the items. I called 311 again, and discovered that my address had been entered into the system incorrectly.

The problem, it seems, is that the 311 system and the 311 app are not in sync when it comes to recording addresses. For example, my request was submitted through the app with my actual address – it even has my exact address in the comment of the service request; but the 311 system recorded it as the address two doors down. Did DPW show up at the neighbor’s house, not see any trash out front, and decide not to take our trash because it didn’t match the address on file? I suppose it’s possible. In any case, with the 311 app out of sync with the 311 system, it’s hard to imagine that this is actually an improvement in efficiency.

Sorry to my neighbors who have had to deal with this eyesore for the past 2 days – I sure hope DPW comes through tomorrow (on attempt #3).

Anyone else have problems with the 311 app? Anyone have success with the 311 app?

13 Comment

  • What exactly are you having picked up? Bulk pick-up (as far as I know) doesn’t take all items. For example, they don’t pick up mattresses unless they are entirely wrapped in plastic wrap (b/c of bedbugs), I think. I am sure you can find the list of what they do and don’t take online somewhere.
    Could that be the reason?

    • Hello. OP here. No – that should not have been the reason. The items to be picked up were specifically noted in the comment of the request. Mattresses were wrapped in plastic and all other procedures were followed exactly as per instructions on the DPW website.

  • I’ve never had any problems with 311. In fact, I think whether it was Williams or Fenty that implemented the system, its the single biggest thing that has improved quality of life in this city. If DPW skips my trash collection, I call, and that afternoon they come and pick it up. I was really worried that under Gray there would be a drop off, but so far, so good.

  • istreettoistreet

    Off the point, but why is the city supposed to be responsible for hauling off your old furniture?

    • Its a service they offer. If you dont want them to offer it, take it up with the city council. Though, most jurisdictions offer a similar service. Dont blame the person who is trying to take the city up on a service they offer.

    • Clearly you have no idea of how trashy people can be. I grew up in the country, where people who didn’t want something would go out on a back road and throw it over a hill. Do you really think this wouldn’t happen here—in any empty lot of alley? Do you really want this to start in DC? Just look at the amount of trash you already see here.

  • To the OP,

    Are you a homeowner or do you live in an apartment (owned not rented) that is either a condo or a coop? If it’s the former, I have found DPW to be one of the better city services. If it’s the latter, the way I’ve understood it is that they will not provide you with these services because the coop or condo association is supposed to have a private collection service for trash/recylcables/bulk pick up for the residences. Could this be the reason for the problem?

  • ah

    I think the 311 app has a GPS/location services feature in it and it uses that for the address rather than the one you enter. Of course, location services isn’t always accurate.

    I had a problem reporting a busted streetlight a couple of doors down from my house. It put my address in for the problem, even though I specified the actual address the streetlight was in front of. (BTW, I’m not a busybody–the house it’s in front of has been vacant for 10+ years–Thanks DCRA).

  • Why not just call 311 with a phone instead of using the app?

    • It’s not relevant in this case, but with the 311 app, you can take pictures and send that evidence in with the report. It’s pretty awesome.

      • The one time I tried calling 311 I was transferred to three different people who told me completely different things. An app sounds genius.

  • you can also post a “curb alert” in the free section of craigslist. it’ll be gone in a day, and your stuff gets reused by someone who needs it.

  • My major problem with the 311 app is that it seems to be abused by do-gooders. One day I got about 25 updates in a row from someone who was just walking around and reporting trees that needed maintenance. And folks really really like to report graffiti. Not that I think these things are unimportant, but I’m wondering what sort of filtering system they are able to use in the office to prioritize. Also, I can not seem to stop the app from sending me update emails, which may admittedly be available and I’m just having difficulty locating the settings…

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