There is a new must have iPhone app for Chicago bicyclists and it comes from one of the unlikeliest of sources. . . the office of 47th Ward Alderman, Ameya Pawar. This well designed and visually appealing application allows any citizen with an iPhone (sorry Android users) to snap a photo of a problem, such as a pothole or debris in the road, and have it reported instantaneously, via GPS tracking, to the relevant city agency and the area alderman. The sender also receives a response and can follow the City's progress addressing the complaint.
It turns out that Ald. Pawar is quite the techy. According to information on the app itself, Chicago Works was developed by 2pensmedia and Pawar, and came out while he was running for alderman. "After the election, 2pensmedia and Ameya worked with the Mayor's office and fellow alderman to develop a more robust app that plugs into the Open 311 framework."
I have just started playing around with the free app and so far am mightily impressed. It is simple as can be to use and the user is able to view not just his/her report but others made around the city within seconds of their submission. A technological innovation like this from a city alderman's office is unexpected but one must give credit where it is due: This is a great idea. Of course, the hard part will fall to the various city agencies to actually act on reports made via the app. Only the coming months will tell if the city is able to step up in this regard.
This could be a very useful tool for city cyclists who often find themselves beating their heads against a wall to get the city to address roadway hazards like potholes. Calling 311 to report a pothole can just be a pain. Sending a photo of a road hazard via Tweeter is akin to simply shouting out of an open window, and just about as effective. Hopefully, Chicago Works 2.0 will prove an easy and effect means for keeping our streets in better shape.