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June’s App of the Month: Saskatoon’s Report a Pothole

Crowdsourcing apps can empower citizens to get involved and collaborate with their local government. By having the app available through any device, governments can gather feedback from a larger group of contributors. Check out how the City of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan proactively combats potholes with June’s App of the Month.

I was driving on my way home one day, enjoying the fact that the snow has melted and the warm weather has finally arrived when THUNK! – my car hit a pothole. I thought to myself, how could the city government miss this pothole?

If you’re in Saskatoon and this happens to you, make sure to use the City’s Report a Pothole app. This web-based, crowdsourcing tool allows citizens to quickly locate and report potholes on an interactive map from a desktop, tablet or mobile device. It’s important to quickly act on potholes to prevent harm to the public as well as an array of damage to vehicles, including flat tires, scratched rims and damaged suspension.  

In early 2014, the City identified the need for an interactive online map that would allow citizens to report potholes and check for repair updates using their devices. This new application would replace the City’s existing online form that maintenance crews found difficult to use in pinpointing the location of repair requests. By creating a crowdsourcing app, citizens could engage and participate in road maintenance and repairs.

Using Esri Canada’s Canadian Municipal Data Model (CMDM) and the Citizen Service Request template to configure the app allowed the City to launch Report a Pothole within a short period. The Citizen Service Request template required minimal customization to ensure personal information captured through the app would remain confidential within the City’s IT infrastructure, a key requirement for the app. Other key requirements included automatic email confirmation to citizens who reported a pothole and a hybrid system architecture combining internal and cloud IT infrastructure. Additionally, pothole location and attribute data stored in SQL Server, as well as the map service served up by ArcGIS Server, were configured to be hosted in the cloud. The City’s ArcGIS Online subscription enabled the ability to view and edit the status of potholes.

Between March and September 2014, during the app’s initial launch, more than 3,500 potholes were reported.

So, how does the app work? 

When you open the app, a splash screen detailing emergency contact information appears in case there’s a severe pothole threatening public safety.

The app displays a detailed reference map of the city that includes locations of repaired potholes, as well as reported potholes based on their priority status. You can view detailed instructions on how to report a pothole at the left panel of the app. There’s also an option to turn on and off several layers, including active and upcoming construction projects.

To report a pothole, you only need to click on a point on the map where the pothole is located. Photo descriptions appear to help you determine the size of the pothole. 

The app allows you to add more descriptive information about the pothole, such as its approximate depth and type of location (crosswalk, driving, bridge or parking lane or shoulder). You also have the option to include a photo and comment. Finally, you can add in your personal information before submitting the app.

Not only has this app made it significantly easier for citizens to report potholes, it has also increased the speed of pothole repairs in Saskatoon. With the public’s help, the City can now locate and fix potholes quicker, and send status updates of a submitted pothole to citizens.

The app’s combination of on-premise and cloud system architecture has also reduced the City’s reliance on its own IT infrastructure. Additionally, having the app accessible via any device has dramatically decreased the number of pothole-related calls to the City.

The Report a Pothole app is a great idea for municipalities that want to engage citizens in proactive road maintenance. I encourage you to check out the app and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author

Jasmine Sohal is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada, holding an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster University and a post-graduate GIS Applications Specialist certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College. As a kid, Jasmine refrained from going to new places until she drew a map of how she would get from Point A to Point B. After taking her first Introduction to GIS course at McMaster University, Jasmine knew right away where her passion lay. Now, as a self-proclaimed Geogeek, she is always inspired to visualize situations spatially and applies GIS anywhere she can. In her spare time, Jasmine is a discoverer; for good hiking trails and restaurants, that is. She is always going out to discover beautiful landscapes during her hiking adventures around the province. Off the trails, you can find her discovering new restaurants to dine at. With her open mind and willingness to adapt and learn, Jasmine is excited to see what her future in GIS holds for her.

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