City launching mobile app for potholes, other problems

Troubled by potholes, high weeds or stray dogs? Soon, there will be an app for that.

The city of Indianapolis plans to launch a free application for Apple devices such as iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches that will allow residents to report problems as they spot them.

City information technology staffers are working with an infrastructure management firm, Dayton, Ohio-based Woolpert Inc., to put the finishing touches on the mobile app. The goal is to make it available by the end of this month, said Sarah Taylor, the city’s director of constituent services.

The app is an extension of RequestIndy, a Web-based service launched last June to allow residents to report problems ranging from illegal dumping to malfunctioning traffic signals, 24 hours a day.

The new Apple tool, like RequestIndy, allows residents to detail specifics about the issues they spot – the color of a stray dog, for instance, or whether a pothole has caused property damage. It also includes a GPS mapping feature and enables problem-spotters to take pictures of the nuisances and include them with their requests.

“You have another mechanism to communicate with us and share your issue or service request,” said Taylor, who emphasized the city was not encouraging residents to text while driving. “The idea is, you have it when you get to your stop. It makes it extremely convenient and allows us to get your immediate feedback.”

The idea for the app emerged as the city was developing RequestIndy as a supplement to the Mayor’s Action Center help line, which residents can use to report problems to city employees.

Taylor said her office has seen some shift in people who would have made requests through the help line instead using the Web-based service. RequestIndy and mobile apps aren’t expected to replace the call function, but generate new users.

The number of requests to the MAC was up 13 percent last year, to 282,162, compared with 249,309 in 2009. Of those requests, 91 percent were telephone calls and 9 percent were made via online resources such as e-mail and RequestIndy, which was available for about six months of the year. The number of online requests more than doubled from 2009 to last year.

“It’s extremely important for us to develop these tools to manage our capacity and growth, and what will be keeping up with newer generations as they use our services,” Taylor said.

The city spent $45,000 on developing the app, which was handled mostly by Woolpert. Since January, a handful of city employees have been testing it, and the city recently recruited a group of about a dozen residents to try it out before it goes public.

Those working on the app are still in discussions with Apple to get a spot for the app at the iTunes store, and those talks must be finalized before it launches.
After that, the city will look to its next mobile endeavor: an app for the Android and possibly other smart phones.


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