Moving to Philadelphia has gotten me thinking about different ways of exploring a new city. Prior to moving, I had only been to Philadelphia a handful of times, and never for longer than two days. I’ve spent some time walking around the neighborhoods surrounding my apartment and have done some longer walks across the city as well. The first marathon I ran was in Philadelphia, and I’ve been looking forward to running along the Schuylkill River Trail again.

But all of these experiences have only given me a glimpse of the city through my eyes and my interests. As a web developer, I wondered if there was a way to get a sense of what more established residents thought of their city. What were people who had lived here for years concerned about?

When I found out that the city had a number of open APIs for developers to use, I started to play around with them and think of some projects that could help me learn about the city while still providing something valuable to users.

A couple of weeks ago, I released an initial version of the Philly 311 Monitor. The app is still very much a work in progress, and there are a number of features I want to build soon. 1

After creating an account, users can add an address that they want to track. The app will then find the most recent 311 service requests that have been made in their neighborhood. Users can look at photos and descriptions of these requests, track them so that they are saved when they return to the app, and find contact information for the city departments that are responsible for the different types of requests. As someone new to the city, I’ve found the app useful in helping me understand the issues that my neighbors are concerned about.

The API does not yet support post requests, so users can’t yet create new ones from this application. 311 is a valuable service, but it depends upon citizens using it and making sure the city is responding to their requests promptly and thoroughly. I hope the app provides Philly residents with an easy way of seeing what requests have been made in places they care about and whether the city has resolved those issues properly.

  1. Please contribute on GitHub, send me any feature requests you have, or let me know if you find any bugs or usability issues.