311 Systems have been in existence for almost 20 years (1996). The number of cities taking on 311 is a slow trickle, stymied by a lack of funding and few off the shelf options.
In an effort to understand where we are now Hopscotch Labs has analyzed reports and articles, and anecdotal first hand implementation experiences. Those reports and articles are available below.
Chicago, New York City and Baltimore were some of the first cities to attempt a 311 system. These first implementations took place in the late 90s at the height of the dotcom bubble. These cities were hit hard by the economic fallout from the dotcom bubble. Their 311 systems survived. The second economic collapse in 2008 hit the systems just as they were recovering. Chicago’s system was especially hard hit by budget cuts, limiting its availability and effectiveness.
Cities face ongoing costs of supporting a call center regardless of call volume. Often their inability to quickly adjust to the volume results in either frustrated callers during peak hours or localized emergencies (snowfall) or a per call cost that exceeds $7 when volume drops.
The inability to predict volume has led many cities to implement adjacent services that don’t require manned phones, such as texting, website resources, and apps.
Entrepreneurs and civic hacks often find alternate ways to fill these gaps with citizen overflow call banks, or specific apps for typical city issues such as streeet sweeping schedules and potholes.
Off the Shelf vs Customized Systems
Initial designs for 311 systems were custom, making it difficult to update or compare success across cities. In the wake of these issues, Open 311 was developed to create a unified system.
Below is a list of websites that describe 311 systems.
Examples and Use Cases:
The Role of 311 Nonemergency Systems in Emergencies (types of engagements)
Learning from the Best City 311 Systems (city overviews)
What cities can learn from New York and Chicago’s 311 systems (report)
Minneapolis 311: Best run but most costly? (Budget, 311 walks)
Pew Study: Philadelphia’s 311 System Shows Progress After One Year (2010 analysis)
311 Call Centers versus Email and Mobile: Why You Can’t Afford Not to Make the Shift