Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Service Request Response Times Down, Study Says

A recent study shows a continuing decline in response time for service requests throughout the city's neighborhoods.  Chart: The Money Cage.
Daniel Hopkins discusses an ongoing study by Georgetown Ph.D. student Lindsay Pettingill, who tracked over 1.5 million service requests placed through D.C.’s 311 hotline between 2000 and 2009. [Also NBC].

The numbers are encouraging.  They show that the Fenty Administration has continued the substantial progress of Mayor Anthony Williams in lowering response times to requests ranging from streetlight and pothole repair to illegal dumping to unpermitted construction.  Ms. Pettingill's study, which is not aligned with any mayoral campaign, also appears to uproot the notion that wealthy areas of the city get more attention from the current Administration than less affluent areas.

I'd like to look more closely at the study, its methodology, and its results, and have requested that Ms. Pettingill make it available to the public.  For instance, it is not apparent from the post whether online service requests were considered in addition to 311 calls.  The study is also likely to have inherent limitations.  For example, designation of a service request as "closed" within a shorter period of time does not necessarily mean the issue was actually and effectively resolved.  In some instances, it may just indicate than an inspector visited the site and either (correctly or incorrectly) concluded that no action was warranted or referred the matter to another agency or a contractor to perform the work, which could take several additional weeks.  Thus, resolution time (as opposed to a mere response) is likely a bit longer. 

Limitations and outstanding questions aside, the independent study's use of empirical data to confirm the substantial and continuing improvement in the delivery of government services, citywide, over the past decade is reassuring.

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