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Chicago introduces text-a-complaint

  • Chicago workers fill pot holes on West Hubbard Street.
Chicago workers fill pot holes on West Hubbard Street. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune )
December 19, 2012|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

Need to report a pothole, tree debris or graffiti? Is a traffic signal or street light out in the neighborhood? Want to file a complaint against a restaurant?

Just for an array of options to pop up, including a dozen top service requests.

The ChiTEXT function existed but now is directly linked to the city’s 311 system for the first time. It’s the latest feature of the city’s Open311 initiative.

Residents can use their cell phones to text service requests, give the address and answer a series of questions about the problem. They can also track the progress and opt-in for an email when the reported issue is resolved.

Even Chicagoans who don’t have the latest iPhone or Android smartphones can use the texting feature on other cell phones.

“It includes everyone. Smartphone usage is absolutely on the rise. There are a significant number of residents that have feature phones,” said chief technology officer John Tolva.

Texting the information can make it easier for residents to report issues. Plus, it allows for a reduction in call volume to 311, which could make the system work more efficiently and quickly, he said. Providing details via text—for example, whether it’s a pothole or sinkhole—can also help the city deploy the right resources, he said.

Residents can still call 311 or submit a service request online here.

In addition, the city's texting service provides contact information for a government office, ward, alderman and police district based on their address. Residents can find where their cars have been towed or relocated. They can subscribe to community, snow and traffic alerts.

Users should note that text messaging and data rates apply.

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