NYC DOT / 311 Does not want to hear road repaving complaints (Updated)

Published on: June 25th, 2015 | Last updated: November 30, 2015 Written by:

NYC’s 311 website is not accepting complaints for streets that need repaving.

Anyone who has driven or cycled around NYC in the few years knows that street repaving has been de-prioritized, resulting in some severely beaten streets that are both unfit for cycling on as well as damaging to the cars of anyone foolish enough to attempt to drive them.

This got me thinking: isn’t anyone filing formal complaints about these streets?

As it turns out, unless you want to make a phone call (honestly, who wants to do that?) you can’t. NYC’s 311 website is refusing to accept street repaving requests.

Here’s what happens when you try:
First, you have to find the proper link on the website – which is shown in the form of a text link (minimized on the page compared to potholes, sink hole, etc).

Once you find the link and fill in the form, this is what happens:

I attempted to submit this form 4 times in the past month. (Today, June 25, 2015 – as well as on May 11th, June 11th, and June 15. ) The result has always been the same: the red error message seen above.

Now, you might conclude “well they don’t know the form is broken” – but that’s nonsense. It’s 2015 – if NYC’s 311 website isn’t configured to send alerts to the programmers responsible for maintaining the site whenever an error occurs, then what we have is a very poorly programmed system. “Mission critical” Web forms such as this shouldn’t simply roll over and die – and remain dead for weeks on end.

Without actual, formal complaints to take action on, the DOT and city government can just shrug and say “well, no one complained” when it comes to street repaving – and thus continue to ignore a problem that everyone cycling and driving in NYC knows exists.

The message being sent with this broken form is clear: the city government doesn’t care about road conditions, and doesn’t want to hear your complaints.

The message being sent with this broken form is clear: the city government doesn’t care about road conditions.

If you think this isn’t a big deal – imagine if our 911 emergency system simply stopped accepting requests for help?

Update – Dec 1, 2015:
The form was finally ‘fixed’, though in order to use it, one must use Google Maps to find an actual address on the street that needs repaving (the form will not submit without one). Longer blocks can have dozens of houses, and if you’re driving or cycling through an unfamiliar part of town, you might not know the addresses of houses on the block with bad pavement. Maybe some day the NYC government will hire a UX designer to fix all these really basic usability problems in their website… and maybe hell will freeze over. There’s really no excuse for these design flaws and error messages in a mission critical website that (when working right) can save taxpayers money on call center staffing. (The average 311 call likely costs the city $3 to answer – where as the website is free).

2 responses to “NYC DOT / 311 Does not want to hear road repaving complaints (Updated)”

  1. Marla Andretti says:

    Good post, Ray, thank you for highlighting this. I’ve wondered WTF is going on… It’s also good to see you mention cycling–

    As someone who drives AND rides, it’s fucking absurd and disgusting to see the amount of hostility people have towards cyclists… SOME of whom are shitheads, sure, just like some cell phone staring pedestrians are shitheads, some assholes on the subway blasting their video games on cell phones are shitheads, just like LOTS of car and truck drivers are shitheads.

    The MORE people who ride bike, the LESS people there are who are likely to drive = better for everyone. And good roads benefit car owners and cyclists alike, as anyone who has had front end work done unfortunately knows.

  2. Control says:

    It’s actually more dangerous for cyclists than drivers to have all these potholes and badly paved roads. The city gov probably thinks ‘screw drivers’ (or at least that’s how they’ve acted lately) when in reality a driver might get screwed with a repair bill (been there, done that – 200 buck oil pan replacement), but if a cyclist falls and breaks bones – that’s time out of work, a lawsuit against the city, pain and suffering that could actually prove fatal if they fall under a bus or something (which I believe has happened on at least one occasion).

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  • About The Author

    Ray Cevoli

    "RayCev" is the nom de plume of a budding NYC muckracker. By day he works in finance, and by night he exposes corruption and highlights the insufficient in city planning and services. 
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