Monday, January 15, 2007

Denver's 311 - Don't Hold Your Breath! (RE: Highland Bridge)

Accessing the new Highland Bridge that crosses I25, is possible, or course, from either end of the bridge by crossing Platte Street from the sourth or Central Street from the north. (I know, it's not technically "south," or "north." But, you know what I mean.) Problem is, CDOT and the City have yet to mark the crosswalks, install PED CROSSING signs or--as the case with Central--four-way stop signs. Crossing Platte Street is usually no problem. Platte Street fronts the charming apartment/condo/business development just north of the Platte River and, on most days (yes, Sarah and I cross Platte Street five days a week--from 34th and Lowell--to meet David who walks to and from work every day), and traffic there is relatively light and slow. Central Street is, however, an issue for the pedestrian. Central Street is one of the access/outlets to/from the 20th Street ingress/egress to/from downtown Denver, with on and off ramps along the way to/from I25. Suffice it to say, most traffic on Central Street past the Highland Bridge mirrors the proverbial bat-outa-hell. The pedestrian who crosses Central Street had better beware. Not only is the traffic fast and furious on Central, vehicles turning onto Central from 16th Street ignore the stop sign. Drivers seldom "totally pause" when making the turn from 16th to Central unless they fear mayhem from the oncoming flow down Central.

Okay. Still with me?

Back in July, 2006, John Hickelooper's (Mayor of Denver) administration ballyhooed the establishment of "3-1-1: Denver Gets it Done." In the mayor's words and the accompanying hype, here's what this "revolutionary" service to citizens was supposed to accomplish:

“The 3-1-1 system will revolutionize Denver’s approach to customer service by enabling residents and businesses to reach a live, knowledgeable person with just one call to City Hall,” said Mayor John Hickenlooper. “Gone are the days of sifting through over 1,200 listings for Denver City services in the phone book’s ‘blue pages.’ Whether you need a park permit application, a pothole filled, or merely have a question, all you need is one number: 3-1-1.”

When calls come in to 3-1-1, trained customer service agents will provide information on the spot or assign a tracking number to the inquiry if a service is requested, such as fixing a broken traffic light. The tracking number allows citizens to follow their requests for service through the City system online at www.denvergov.org. Callers can also find out the status of a specific request or add more information or comments by referring to their specific 3-1-1 tracking number by phone, e-mail or fax.

In preparing to launch the 3-1-1 system, the City documented business processes in agencies throughout the City to find opportunities for greater efficiency and accountability. By assigning a tracking number to service requests, the City is able to better evaluate its performance.
So--you know me!--I thought, okay, I'll try it. So, I opened a case via Internet with the online utility the mayor told us all was a "...revolution[ary]...approach to customer service..." I opened a case (regarding the pedestrian issue on both sides of the Highland Bridge) on January 4th. And, each day since then, I've checked my case to see what resolution the city would provide and, to date, the only notation in the "Manage Case" functionality is, and I paraphrase, "No solution found for this case." Now, I had to paraphrase because, for two days now, the full functionality of the online 3-1-1 has been down, dead, unresponsive. Here's the menu that hasn't worked for two days.

"Revolutionary," huh. The Hick must use a different dictionary than I.

Hedging my bets a bit, on the same day I opened a "case" on the 3-1-1 system, I sent an email to Councilwoman Judy Montero as follows:

Sent: Thursday, January 04, 2007 11:09 AM
To: Montero, Judy H. - City Council District #9
Subject: Highland Bridge

Dear Councilwoman:

I am perplexed by the absence of stop signs, crosswalks at both Platte and Central Streets, at either end of the Highland bridge. Are these forthcoming? It is very dangerous crossing both of those streets, to access the bridge.

Thank you
Six days later--there was an weekend in there--I received this response from Councilwoman Montero's aide, Kim Kucera:

Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 1:09 PM

Subject: RE: Highland Bridge

George:

The information I have is as follows:

On the Central Street side CDOT is saying the curb ramps are in place for the crossing. Brian Mitchell, Traffic Engineer for the City of Denver is coordinating with the project team to get the stop signs in place. I will try to find out a more definitive timeline for you and e-mail that shortly. Once the stops signs are in place the city has agreed to place the crosswalk.

Platte Street: the curb ramps are in place, the crosswalk and ped warning signs (not stop signs) have been ordered but have been delayed because of the recent weather. They should be there shortly.

Kim
Way to go, Kim!

As for the Hick's "revolutionary" customer service enhancement; an enhancement hyped by Hick 's Administration as something that had evolved from a thorough review of "...business processes in agencies throughout the City to find opportunities for greater efficiency and accountability..." All this to better serve citizens, taxpayers of Denver. Well, um, it ain't workin' guys. At least, in my case, it didn't.

Snake oil hype--in case the Hickies don't know it--creates expectations in the minds of those who buy it. I never have bought it. But, the curiosity of this whole thing is that a vast majority of Denverites still just love the Hick; this cocoa and sleds, Vespas and Saturns, Happy Holiday's--oops!--Merry Christmas mayor.

Go figure!

P.S. This morning, January 16th, the 3-1-1 site was again functional. Here's the 3-1-1 "Manage Case" verbiage, verbatim (note the "solutions considered comments):

Manage Case
Case
439356

Case Information

Customer
George
Status Routed to Agency


Construction
Problem Summary

Date Created
01/04/07 1:55PM
Date Closed
Incident Address

Notes Summary

Summary Added By Date

Highland Pedestrian Bridge - No Pedestrian Walkway
At either end of the newly opened Highland bridge across I25, there are no pedestrian walkways (stop...
George 01/04/2007 1:55PM

Solutions Considered

There are no attempted Solutions for this Case

Sequence Number

2 comments:

Jeffrey Beall said...

George:

I had an occasion to call 3-1-1 in Denver once and I was disappointed as well.

I came upon an open manhole cover while bicycling north on Mariposa Street from 14th Avenue. I stopped, got out my cellphone and called 311 (I had a little trouble finding the "eleven" button on the phone but managed to figure it out). A woman came on the line, and I told her the nature of the problem and the location. She then asked me to hold, which I did, for five minutes. I finally gave up, because I was on a cell phone, and the call was costing me money, and I was in a hurry. I never found out if they sent anyone out to fix this very dangerous problem.

--Jeffrey

PS: Do I have any grammatical errors in this comment?

George said...

Ah, Jeffrey...

Grammar: my raison de'etre. Actually, I struggle with grammar, and find myself constantly questioning my own use of words and punctuation.

As to your comment about 3-1-1. I just tried the online functionality again and, nope, it still isn't working. So much for "...greater efficiency and accountability."