Tuesday, August 4, 2009

SeeClickFix New Haven

When we moved in to our new home in New Haven a few weeks ago, one of the first things we noticed was the preponderance of pot holes on our street. One was so big, my wife's car could fit in it. It was only a couple of inches deep, so was more like a specially recessed parking space, but other smaller craters were nearly 8 inches deep. With all the rain we've had this summer, the array of street defects created a veritable Chain of Lakes for the length of the small street. (A deliberate nod to my NE Illinois readers.) Whether I drove or biked, every time I was on Eagle street, I felt like the driver in Moon Patrol. Fortunately, there are no enemies shooting at me. I understand there are other regions of this city where that could be an issue.

Anyway, I found a thread of complaints about this very issue at a website called SeeClickFix. There are actually three posts about potholes on Eagle St.: here here and here. The third link has some juicy vitriol; potholes bring ou the worst in people. Anyway, I don't know if it's because of the website, or that I emailed my alderman to complain (and ask for voter registration cards!) a few weeks ago, but I incredulously watched a work crew of two fill in every last pothole on the street last Friday. And they only fixed the stretch that goes past my house. The next block - equally riddled with holes, but not as complained about - received no repairs.

So perhaps this SeeClickFix business works! It's a Web 2.0 (user created content) interface that uses GoogleMaps to start and maintain threads. The site's history is connected to Yale and started in New Haven, but has spread to such foreign lands as Seattle and France; it is less used in those places.

Here's a map of the region of New Haven I live in. East Rock is where many grad student and medical resident Yalies live. It's pretty close to the hospital, has great shuttle routes (to Yale), is a quiet but still dense area, has a few little groceries, delis and pizzarias, and is close to freeways if needed. There is plenty to complain about, too. Look at all of those orange conversation balloons!

According to my alderman, the City of New Haven uses this tool to track municipal complaints and requests. Perhaps your municipality can use it, too! The site is looking for what they call SideClicks to spread the use of their website. It seems like unpaid digital evangelism to me, but if other cites catch on and use the system, maybe it's worth it.

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