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Transport for London

How FixMyStreet Pro is working for transport authorities

Transport for London’s Streetcare service represents a crucial piece of joined-up infrastructure for the capital.

When there’s graffiti on an underground station, a traffic light fails or the surface of a major London highway needs repair, Transport for London are the ones who need to get it seen to. Under the Greater London Authority Act, it falls to their directorates to oversee maintenance of much of the city’s transport infrastructure.

But of course, TfL inspectors can’t be in every part of the city at once: like councils, though on a much wider scale, they rely on citizens to spot and report problems on their journeys through the streets.

“This system had to be simple for the user, but deal with some complex routing behind the scenes”

TfL came to SocietyWorks to see whether FixMyStreet Pro might be the online reporting system they needed.

The result? Branded as Streetcare, FixMyStreet Pro is providing a welcome piece of joined up infrastructure which doesn’t just assume the user knows when an issue needs to go to TfL. Instead it provides a useful two-way network between the transport authority and London’s borough councils.

What TfL needed

It wasn’t a straightforward proposition: this system had to be simple for the user, but deal with some complex routing behind the scenes, given that two reports made in London just metres apart may be the responsibility of completely different bodies.

Because while TfL are responsible for the maintenance of ‘Red Routes’ (the capital’s main arterial highways) and many of London’s traffic lights, bus shelters and so on, other areas and assets are overseen by the city’s borough councils.

At the same time, reports being made on FixMyStreet.com, or the borough councils’ own installations of FixMyStreet Pro are often better sent to TfL.

That’s perhaps too tricky for many systems, but fortunately it’s the sort of thing that FixMyStreet has been handling as standard since its inception, given the UK’s layered system of councils and their differing duties.

The solution

Street reports in London can be made in a number of different places, and which one the citizen chooses will depend on their assumptions about whose job it is to get it fixed.

The beauty of this set-up is that no-one needs to be an expert.

So they might file the details on our nationwide website fixmystreet.com; they might go through TfL’s Streetcare, or they could go through the relevant borough council’s website.

Generally speaking, people aren’t necessarily clued up on how duties are divided between authorities, especially in the UK where it’s hardly intuitive. The beauty of this set-up is that no-one needs to be an expert. Whichever place they choose to make a report, the system knows which authority to route it to: that’s the relevant council if it’s their responsibility; or TfL if it’s up to them to get it fixed.

Triage at the point of submission

Let’s look at a few different scenarios.

Reporting on Streetcare

First, let’s assume the citizen believes the job to be the responsibility of TfL and they head to their website, where they are signposted to the Streetcare page. They see a list of categories, pick one and make the report.

Now, if they are correct and it is in fact a job for TfL, that report will drop directly into the transport authority’s own system, and staff will make use of FixMyStreet Pro’s Manager and Inspector tools to firstly triage before instructing contractors to deal with the issue in a timely manner.

“Transport for London is an ambitious implementation and concrete proof that FixMyStreet Pro can work for all types of authority.”

But perhaps the citizen will select one of the most common street cleaning and fly tipping categories, which TfL have also chosen to display even though they’re not responsible for them. That’s fine — the site will redirect to fixmystreet.com, where the map will be centred on precisely the same point.

The user can then proceed with making their report, and off it goes to the borough council, as normal, for them to process. TfL won’t need to be involved.


Reporting on the council’s site

Now let’s see what happens if the citizen defaults to making a report on the borough council website. If it’s one of the six London boroughs which already use FixMyStreet Pro as their main reporting interface for citizens, and if they’ve opted to show the relevant categories, this smart routing will also kick in with reports being redirected to TfL as appropriate.

It’s optional for councils to display TfL categories, but we recommend their inclusion as it offers a better experience for everyone. As reports made in these categories are routed to TfL, it is no extra bother for council staff.


Reporting on FixMyStreet

Then finally: if the report is made through fixmystreet.com, the national site that covers the whole of the UK, you can be sure it’ll be sent either to TfL or to the borough council (whether or not they are a FixMyStreet Pro client) as appropriate.

And to add a further layer of convenience, in all these reporting scenarios if the responsibility lies with neither the council nor TfL, but with Highways England, it will go off to them instead.

What does all this mean? Ultimately it comes down to this: every authority will receive fewer irrelevant reports which creates savings and efficiencies. No more forwarding to the correct body, or replying to the citizen to ask them to send it somewhere else.

“Every authority will receive fewer irrelevant reports — and that creates savings and efficiencies.”

FixMyStreet during lockdown

TfL already had Streetcare all set up and working smoothly when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

They told us that they were surprised to find that the FixMyStreet Pro-based system came into its own in unforeseen ways during the lockdown period. With many fewer staff out on the streets, they were glad to be able to rely on citizen reports, and they underlined the importance of quick responses while the city’s infrastructure was providing vital transport to key workers.

See Sally Reader, TfL’s Delivery Manager, explain more in this video:

Extra value all round

Transport for London is an ambitious implementation and concrete proof that FixMyStreet Pro can work for all types of authority — even, as we have seen, in times of emergency.

But what is also pleasing is how it is bringing extra value to borough councils and residents alike. See how it all works by visiting Streetcare, FixMyStreet or one of the FixMyStreet Pro borough councils: that’s Bromley, Bexley, Westminster, Greenwich, Hackney and Hounslow.

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