New App Improving Response Time for Public Works in Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Let’s say you had public works problem, like a traffic light was out  or you saw a tree down. To get it fixed, you used to have to do something unthinkable: pick up the phone and dial.

You’d get sent to an automated service, go through the options, and hopefully leave a message for the right person to get it solved. 

“Under the old model, you had to know pretty much who to call. There was a centralized phone number, but it wandered on to what we call 'sticky note oblivion.' If a note got routed in the wrong direction, there was the opportunity to introduce human error,” said Jonathan Gano with the City of Des Moines Public Works.

Gano said the old model was tedious and inefficient. But this all went away when the city launched its myDSMmobile app last year. The first round of data recently came out, and it’s showing just how successful the program has been.

“It’s dramatically streamlined the process for anyone who wants to report any of those most common problems,” said Gano.

The app is simple. You just find a location for your problem, drop a pin, describe the issue, and it gets fixed. In just one year, they’ve taken 4,500 requests from the app. The most commonly-reported issue was potholes, making up nearly half of all requests. The second biggest issue was tree removal.

Gano said having the exact location and detail of the problem is a game changer for his crews. For instance, before the app, in order to report potholes, drivers had to guess where they were, make a note of the location, and call them in. The public works crews would have to go out and hunt them down, and the whole process could take several days. Now, with the app, crews can work on the problems within the same day. 

“I honestly thought it would be more difficult to implement and to deploy, but it’s been relatively easy to work on the technology side,” said Gano.  

Gano said it’s saving the city money by cutting down on aimless driving time, and also freeing up crews to work on other projects. 

The myDSMmobile app is available for both Android and Apple devices.