Metro, Newton

Newton 311 App Incorporates Residential Help to Fix Potholes

Recent winter weather in Newton has created ideal conditions for potholes to fill the city’s streets, according to Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller in a Feb. 6 newsletter. The Newton 311 app, which compiles work orders throughout the city, also addresses the potholes.

Introduced in 2008, the service allows around-the-clock access to government representatives, said Garrett Ross, manager of customer service for the City of Newton.

“[Newtonians] are able to use [the service] through the web, through an app on their smart device, or by calling customer service, and we pretty much put in any kind of concerns that they have into the system,” Ross said.

The Newton 311 app and website offer a wide range of services, including filing work orders for street issues, ticket appeals, and yard waste. When the city receives a message through the 311 service, government employees go to the reported scene and determine its level of importance, according to Ross. 

The app, called “Newton MA 311,” has a simple interface. Four options are on the homepage of the app: an option to look at the latest news from the city, the ability to make a request, a service center, and a button that is a speed dial to city offices.

After selecting the “make a request” button, users can enter in the location of the incident, specify its nature, and provide more details in a text box at the bottom of the page.

Around 75 percent of the messages that go through the “make a request” process in the 311 system are related to trash, recycling, or yard waste issues, Ross said. 

Recently, though, this pattern has changed, as potholes have become a more reported issue on the 311 system, according to Ross.

GovQA, a software company, created the 311 service for the city. In the past 14 years, GovQA’s main improvement to the service has been removing bugs and glitches. More recently, the city worked to improve the user experience of the reporting process, according to Ross.

“A number of residents felt as if information was put into the system but they rarely received their information back, [so] we did a major communications overhaul,” Ross said. “So the enhanced communication that we recently did allowed us to do some automated emails based on changing of statuses.”

The new customer service process is only a temporary solution to the problem of residents feeling out of the loop, according to Ross. It does, however, allow the person filing a work order to receive updates as the city addresses their report, he said. 

Fuller’s newsletter from Feb. 3, as Ross noted, outlined the 311 service’s instrumental role in fixing potholes. While potholes are inevitable, they are fixable with the help of residents, Fuller wrote. 

Please be our eyes out on the roads,” Fuller wrote in the email. “The fastest way to make a report (which can be done anonymously) is to download the Newton MA 311 app if you have a smartphone. …Take a photo of the pothole and send in a report right at the spot.”

Featured Image by Vikrum Singh / Heights Editor

February 20, 2022