If you’ve tried out the city’s 311 phone number or Twitter account, you’ve found that your calls and tweets to 311 disappear down a black hole, never to be seen by anyone else. That’s dumb! Wouldn’t you like to avoid the 311 Abyss, and put your city-related requests where they’ll actually get seen by the people who need to see them? Yes! You would! And some of our friends have invented a better way to do just that, at least in one, specific, case.

Our good friends at Curbed SF posted yesterday about the City’s push to add curb ramps to help the disabled, the laundry toting, and those of us with short dogs get from sidewalk to sidewalk without blowing a tire, fresh load, or knee. It’s simple: if you know of a place where a curb ramp needs to be added, they want you to contact 311 to request it.

But the Curbed article noted:

Asking customers to submit their curb requests via the secretive 311 system is not super-ideal. Their motto might as well be a sarcastic, “thanks for the tip,” followed by a slammed door. Good luck finding out who else is requesting ramps, and in what locations, and with what frequency: 311 takes all that data and squirrels it away. Sites like EveryBlock and SeeClickFix can gobble up municipal data and churn out useful maps; but not if an agency like 311 insists on hoarding the info.

We’ve been told that SF’s 311 has been talking about making their data (that is, information like what’s been requested and how long it takes to get done) transparent and available since September 2008, but so far they have failed to show any of us the proverbial money.

Our Google vanity alerted pals at SeeClickFix (goodness we are namedroppy today) saw the Curbed article and made us something really cool. As opposed to sending your curb ramp requests into the Chamber of Secrets that is 311, submit them by clicking on the location you’d like to see one in the map above and filling out the brief form. SeeClickFix will then submit your request for you in the manner requested by DPW, but in a totally transparent fashion.

See, 311, it’s not that hard.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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