Fixing Glendale with a smartphone app

Andrew Vaughan uses his smartphone to do everything. He texts, checks emails, plays games — and reports quality-of-life issues to the city?

After seeing a pothole next to his condominium for two weeks, he opened up the MyGlendale app on his Android phone, snapped a picture and off went his report to City Hall via an application he downloaded on his Nexus 4.

Within about three days it was fixed. Same story for a burnt out traffic light he reported, only that time, city crews were out the same day.

"These things that I've submitted, I really don't know of any other way to do it," said the engineer, who happened across the app during a search for Glendale-related products online.

Glendale has had the app for nearly two years, but it was a quiet release, mostly to work out the kinks among a small number of users. Now, there's what city spokesman Tom Lorenz called a "big push" to get the app out there.

"You don't necessarily have to pick up the phone [to call and report a problem]," Lorenz said. "You can do it while you're waiting for the bus, when you're waiting to catch a plane, when you're drinking a cup of coffee. That's the whole idea, to make it easier."

The app is also meant to take the frustrating process of getting department to department out of the equation for those who don't know where to file a complaint.

Users who submit reports can also see others that were filed close by on a map.

CitySourced, a Los Angeles-based startup, launched the app in 2009. Since then municipalities, counties, school districts and even entire countries have deployed the service.

Glendale has so far received more than 1,600 reports from the app, most of which were for illegal dumping, trash and graffiti removal, said Andrew Kirk, director of sales and marketing at CitySourced.

CitySourced charges a $2,000 set-up fee and then an annual maintenance fee based on size of population being served. For Glendale, that charge is $700 a month, Lorenz said.

Over the years, Glendale officials have learned what works and what doesn't with the app. It's great for potholes, but falls short with noise or vehicle complaints that may come in on the weekend because staff isn't checking the system, Lorenz said.

Even the new push to advertise the app — posting it on the city's homepage online and announcements in newsletters — is an exercise in experimentation.

"We're kind of doing things a little piece by piece," Lorenz said. "Let's see if we get slammed [with reports] and we can keep up with it."

The MyGlendale app works on Android, iPhone, Windows and Blackberry phones.


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