The 411 On 311

Friday, I had a problem.  And, that problem was attempted murder!

(cue CSI theme song)

In all seriousness, the setup to my problem is as follows: I live on a one-way street.

While driving home from lunch last Friday, I was shocked to see an SUV barreling straight towards me.

As the SUV sped down the wrong way on my one-way street, I kept honking my horn (no reaction from the SUV) as I veered onto a side street and narrowly missed the oncoming car as it sped past me.

Since it was the middle of the day, I threw out the possibility that the driver of the SUV was drunk.

My initial thought, then, was that they somehow missed the one-way signage farther down the street.

After doing a quick inspection, I did indeed notice a tree partially covering one of the many signs.

OK.  So that’s all well and good.  But what do I do with this information?

Well, years ago I read an article in Wired magazine about this thing that Mayor Bloomberg started in New York city; 311 service.

311 is now in most major cities (here is the link to 311 Service In Austin) and one of their uses is that they are an  “information concierge” where citizens can call and speak to someone to help them find the right resources to solve their problem.

On Monday, I dialed 311 and spoke to a representative and told him about my narrow collision with the wrong way SUV and how I thought that one of the one-way signs was partially covered by a tree and that I was looking for “someone” (didn’t know who) to come out and inspect the signs.  The City?  The Police?  I wasn’t sure who does this sort of thing.

He put me on hold for few minutes and came back with some information and told me it would be taken care of and they would contact me and then provided me with a reference number.

Today (Wednesday) I had not heard back from anyone and dialed 311 again.  Since I had the reference number, I gave that to the representative.  While I was a bit upset I didn’t get a call back, I did have that reference number and that made the call pretty easy.  He checked the reference number, checked the status and then assured me someone from the city sign shop (yes, apparently there is such a thing) would call me back later today.

Sure enough, a nice guy from the city sign shop called me back.  He told me they trimmed the tree and also did something else with another one of the signs.

To me, this was pretty awesome news.  It hopefully means that I won’t be seeing any more wrong way drivers and it also makes me happy to know that I was able to make a difference in my neighborhood.  The reality is, my street is pretty dangerous (speeding at 15+ miles over the posted limit and at least one accident a month by my count).  Anything we as a community can do to make it safer, helps.  I’m glad that 311 was able to help out here.

So, I tell you that to tell you this: use 311.  It works.


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