Residents of Nantwich, Crewe, Wilmslow, Macclesfield, and every other part of Cheshire East will benefit from the council’s decision to implement FixMyStreet Pro as their official report-making system for highways issues.
FixMyStreet’s interface should come as a step improvement for both citizens and council staff, making the reporting process much simpler for all.
FixMyStreet Pro will be integrating with the council’s existing Confirm CRM. Confirm is a popular choice for UK councils and we’ve dealt with it a lot, so the hook-up was very straightforward.
Customer service staff will also continue taking reports over the phone. They’ll input details into the system for inspectors to pick up — and these reports will also be shown on the council’s website (and fixmystreet.com) so the public can see what’s in progress and doesn’t need re-reporting.
A further benefit is that because FixMyStreet can define the information required from the report-maker (precise location, category, etc), the customer services team won’t need to review it as they had been doing previously.
So there are efficiency wins all round for Cheshire East. We welcome them to the growing number of councils who’ve opted for FixMyStreet Pro.
We know that people are out and about much less during the current lockdown, but here’s something to bear in mind for Peterborough residents who pass a tree that needs attention during their daily excursion. And when this is all over, we hope it will be more widely used.
Tree related issues reported by citizens in Peterborough can now be submitted online using FixMyStreet Pro.
Thanks to collaboration with Peterborough’s tree management system provider RA Information systems, reports made on FixMyStreet are now raised as enquiries directly in Peterborough’s Ezytreev tree management system.
When a citizen picks ‘trees’ as a category, they’ll be shown the location of every tree in the area on the FixMyStreet map. This ensures that they identify the precise positioning, saving time for surveyors.
They’re then presented with categories ranging from ‘fallen branch’ to ‘problem with fungi’, so council staff know precisely what needs attending to. Photos can be added to reports to help depict the issue.
The joined-up system means that tree admin staff no longer have to manually key in enquiries from the public into Ezytreev, while members of the public are kept informed at every step of the way.
Peterborough Council’s trees team can triage the reported issues immediately, and assign to a tree surveyor in the field who receives the inspection straight to their mobile device through Smart-sync. As the tree enquiry is progressed on the Ezytreev tree management system the citizen is kept informed via updates automatically sent through FixMyStreet Pro.
The system was put to the test during the recent storms, which damaged trees and brought down branches. Everything went smoothly: report-making was easier for citizens and dealing with those reports more efficient for council staff.
The new system also allows citizens to suggest where new trees might be planted.
FixMyStreet Pro Sales Director David Eaton said, ‘We’re always pleased to be able to show FixMyStreet Pro’s flexibility by integrating with a system we haven’t previously worked with. This EzyTreev integration is just the latest example of how FixMyStreet Pro can join up with any existing asset management system. And it’s great to know we’re playing a small part in helping citizens to look after their all-important trees across Peterborough.”
Every road user relies on signs, so keeping them tip-top is in everyone’s interest. Now Transport Focus have launched their Sort My Sign campaign, asking road users to help them do just that.
They’d like everyone to report any signs they spot that are dangerous, dirty, broken, or obscured.
To support this programme digitally, Transport Focus came to mySociety, asking if we could help create a simple and intuitive mapping interface where these issues could be reported.
Specifically, the scheme covers signs on roads managed by Highways England, which means motorways and some A roads.
FixMyStreet was the obvious starting point — we already have a data layer for these roads, which means that your everyday FixMyStreet reports can be routed to Highways England rather than the council if they are the responsible body.
Plus, as we’ve detailed many times before, the FixMyStreet platform can be repurposed for any project dealing with location-based reports, and has in the past been put to all sorts of uses, from reporting empty homes to helping fight corruption.
Nonetheless, we perceived one potential challenge when it came to setting up sign reporting.
FixMyStreet is generally well-suited for people making reports on the go — in fact, thanks to the ‘use my location’ functionality, it is ideal for reporting issues like potholes or broken pavements on your mobile while out on a walk. But obviously, road signs are a slightly different matter. If you are driving, you certainly mustn’t be fiddling with your mobile phone, so ‘use current location’ is only helpful if you have an amenable passenger to make the report.
That’s fine — you can always make the report later of course: but that means you’ll need to know roughly where you were when you saw the sign, something that’s a bit trickier on a long drive than it might be on a stroll around your neighbourhood. FixMyStreet allows you to find any UK location with the input of a postcode or street name, but these are details you’re unlikely to have to hand if you have simply driven through.
After some thought we realised that, on a motorway, the location identifier most people will find easiest to recall will probably be the junction number.
So that set us a challenge: how could we best enable ‘search by junction number’?
Ideally, we wanted a user to be able to visit the Sort My Sign site and enter the name of a junction, just as they’d enter a postcode or street on the FixMyStreet homepage — and then to be taken to a map centred on that point.
But sourcing a mapping between motorway/junction number and co-ordinates proved surprisingly tricky. mySociety developer Matthew takes over the story.
“I first looked at OpenStreetMap data — its geocoder, Nominatim, worked really well for some junction numbers, but didn’t work at all for others. If a junction has been assigned a name (like J23 on the M6, which is known as ‘Haydock’) it can only be looked up by that name, not by number. But we wanted users to be able to look up junctions by number.
“I could also export all the junction data from OpenStreetMap, but the junction nodes alone aren’t linked to the motorway, so that looked like it would prove tricky to match up.”
“But by a stroke of luck, I then discovered that someone had used another of mySociety’s services, our Freedom of Information site WhatDoTheyKnow, to make a request to Highways England asking for the positions of all the driver location signs (the repeaters every 100m or 500m along the motorways giving the name and distance from start).
“In response, Highways England had provided that information, so I knew I could use that to at least provide a mapping between location sign and geographic co-ordinates.
“Each sign also had information about what junction it was nearest or between, so by constructing an average of all the location sign co-ordinates associated with a particular junction, I came up with a pretty good estimate for the location of the junction itself.
“I added all the sign and junction data into a small SQLite database (which means it’s portable and doesn’t need to be associated with the main database) and wrote a little bit of code to spot when someone entered a junction name in any of a variety of different formats, then look up the matching location in this database”.
To test this out, Matthew had all his colleagues name their favourite junction… perhaps not to be recommended as a party game, but it did at least prove that his code had cracked the problem.
Something much appreciated by Head of Strategy at Transport Focus, Guy Dangerfield, who says, “mySociety has been excellent in understanding what we needed and finding ways to achieve our objectives.”
You can give the new system a go here — and perhaps bookmark the site so that you know where to report a sign next time you see one that needs fixing.
Once you’re safely off the road, that is.
Bexley’s installation of FixMyStreet Pro went live in June 2019, and as we noted at the time, it integrated with their existing Symology asset management to process reports of highways issues like potholes, graffiti and abandoned vehicles.
Once the system had been running for a little while, Bexley started examining other ways in which FixMyStreet could improve internal workflows and save the borough time and money.
As a result, they have now also integrated with a further two systems: Confirm for trees, parks and ground maintenance issues, and Uniform for some fly tipping issues.
For the report-maker, this keeps things nice and simple: they only have to visit one place and can report any issue across this range of categories. Meanwhile, the council are benefiting from the ability to collect consistent data, which is then passed on to the most relevant back office system depending on which category the reporter selected.
FixMyStreet Pro’s two way integration across all of these linked systems means that when the council update the relevant issue in any of them, it also updates the website and lets the citizen know that there’s an update on their report, or that it’s been resolved. Both citizen and council save time, with no need for a follow-up call to see how the issue is progressing.
We’re also pleased to hear that the customer service centre have adopted FixMyStreet as their main reporting platform internally, as well. This means that staff don’t have to learn and use three different systems: they can easily create a report on behalf of a citizen within FixMyStreet, and rest assured that it will be sent to the correct department.
Back in November, we announced our new partnership with Transport for London. We’re now pleased to say that the new Street Care service is live.
If you’re a seasoned user of FixMyStreet, there’s no learning curve required: you can proceed exactly as normal. If you prefer, you can carry on making reports through the national website at FixMyStreet.com or via the FixMyStreet app.
The only difference is that now, if the issue is the responsibility of TfL, that’s where your report will be routed, and that’s where updates will come from to let you know when the fix is in progress or completed.
The new service covers potholes, roadworks, bus shelters and traffic lights on the capital’s busiest roads — the ‘red routes’, which make up only 5% of the city’s highways, but account for a whopping 30% of traffic. Users can also report graffiti and flyposting, problems with hoardings, scaffolding and mobile cranes, street lights and damaged trees.
As ever, the underlying FixMyStreet platform means that you don’t need to think about who is responsible for your issue. If a problem is reported and it’s nothing to do with TfL, it’ll be automatically routed to the relevant borough or authority.
Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management, said: “The TfL Street Care service will give people more information about the work we are doing on London’s road network and at bus stops and reassure Londoners that we really care about getting things fixed.”
It’s one more bit of joined-up thinking for the capital, that will make reporting easier for residents, commuters, and visitors, while also bringing increased efficiency at every stage of the process. We’re delighted to see it up and running.
What a year it’s been for FixMyStreet Pro, now the official street reporting system for 21 authorities across the country.
During 2019 we’ve welcomed Bexley, Cheshire East, Hackney, Northamptonshire, Hounslow Highways, Westminster, Island Roads (Isle of Wight), Peterborough, and now Transport for London to the list of Pro clients.
In all, that adds up to 6.5 million residents who can now report problems such as potholes, faulty street lights or vandalism, either on FixMyStreet.com or on their councils’ own websites.
And if you consider that TfL covers all of Greater London, a further 7.5 million residents and countless commuters, tourists and visitors to the city are also covered for reporting on overground and underground stations, red routes, bus stops, etc.
In all cases, reports pass directly into the authorities’ internal systems, making for swift resolution and the ability to keep the report-maker informed of progress at every step.
It hasn’t been all about expansion, though. This year, we’ve also been adding further features for councils to the FixMyStreet Pro offering. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that improvements for councils always translate into improvements for residents too, either in terms of quicker report processing, better status updates, or public money saved — and often all three.
Here’s a rundown of the new features we’ve introduced this year:
And we were delighted to meet up with residents in Westminster and let them put the FixMyStreet to test while we watched and learned.
We’ve already been carrying out some research with client authorities, and we’ll be continuing this work into the new year. We also have some development planned.
We’re really looking forward to getting our teeth into these features and then rolling them out to our client councils in 2020.
Image: Nadine Shaabana
We know that in many cases, when we install FixMyStreet Pro for a new council, we’re bringing not only a smooth reporting interface for residents, but also a better day-to-day experience for staff. In the case of Peterborough City Council, that was very much the case.
Peterborough had been using a stopgap solution for street reports, after the service they had been using ceased to exist. So, for some time, residents had been asked to make their reports through basic online forms. Not too onerous, but clunky enough.
The real pain point was mostly experienced, however, by council personnel. Customer services staff had the job of manually transferring the details from a spreadsheet and into the council’s Confirm CRM, where highways inspectors could pick up the reports and act upon them.
Then, once an issue had been resolved, inspectors manually updated another spreadsheet to let the customer service centre know of the status change, in case the report-maker called for an update.
There was no automated means by which a user could be updated with progress on reports, or told when it had been fixed.
So in short, FixMyStreet Pro will be making life easier all round, for staff and for residents. Plus the easier internal workflow should save a substantial amount of time and money, while keeping citizens engaged and informed every step of the way.
Councillor Farooq Mohammed said, “The introduction of FixMyStreet has brought in significant improvements to the services PCC provide to its residents. FixMyStreet not only brings efficiencies to various service departments, it is very user friendly and easy to use for our residents. This improves the response time to our residents.”
And Peterborough’s ICT Project Manager Jason Dalby added, “mySociety fully understood the challenges we face as a local authority and very quickly turned our requirements into an automated fault reporting system with integration into our Highways back office Confirm system, improving our efficiency by eliminating manual data entry.
“We are proud to be partners with mySociety and continue to work closely with them to improve FixMyStreet for our mutual benefit”.
We’ll continue working with the council over the next few months on their other service areas too, so watch this space.
If you’re a council and there’s potential for efficiencies in your reporting system (whether large or small), do get in touch.
At TICTeC Local, the conference on impacts of technology for communities and local government, the fault-reporting service FixMyStreet today announced a new partnership with TfL.
Thanks to the deal, from early December reports made through the site will be routed to TfL where it is the authority’s responsibility to get them fixed — and as another option, there’ll also be a smart new portal on TfL’s website for easy reporting.
TfL have responsibility for all highways issues (red routes) on main arterial roads in Greater London, as well as most bus stops, traffic lights and bus shelters, underground and overground stations.
When a report is made anywhere within Greater London, the FixMyStreet system will automatically route it to the right authority: that’s the relevant council if it’s their responsibility; or TfL if it’s up to them to get it fixed.
TfL reports will drop directly into the transport authority’s own system, which has been integrated with Manager and Inspector tools, as developed to answer the needs of contractors as part of the FixMyStreet Pro service.
Additionally, where reports are made through the websites of the five London boroughs which use FixMyStreet Pro as their main reporting interface for citizens, this smart routing will also kick in, with relevant reports being redirected to TfL. And that goes both ways, so reports made on the TfL website which aren’t their responsibility will be sent off to the right council instead.
Mark Cridge, Chief Executive of mySociety, the non-profit who run FixMyStreet, said, “This is a great step forward and shows just how well the FixMyStreet platform can knit in with other systems to ultimately produce more connected, efficient city services.
“It’s a model we could replicate across other major metropolitan areas such as Greater Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are also opportunities to plug in with Business Improvement Districts and any other pan-London systems that process reports from the public.”
FixMyStreet Pro has crossed the Solent, with Isle of Wight the latest council to install it as their official report-making interface.
Street issues on England’s largest island are handled by the company Island Roads, who keep things in order for residents and tourist alike, with responsibility for highways maintenance; road, pavement and cycleway improvements; street lights, street cleansing, winter gritting, bridges, drainage, street furniture and car parks.
As with all FixMyStreet Pro integrations, islanders can take their pick between making reports through the Island Roads website or on FixMyStreet.com; either way the issue will display on both sites, and drop directly into the case management system, Confirm.
Island Roads requested a feature that we hadn’t previously developed for any of our other council clients, but which we suspect that some may be interested in now they know it’s available.
When a report is submitted, it drops into a special triage area where operatives can analyse it in more detail, ensure that it is categorised correctly, and check that it contains all the relevant information that the inspectors need in order to locate the fault and fix it.
Island Roads have also made use of another new piece of functionality: emergency categories.
If a user indicates the report might require immediate attention — say, in the case of a fallen tree on the road or a hazardous pothole — the form submission is disabled.
Instead, the user will see a message, telling them to call Island Roads directly:
The aim is that this simple safeguard will have a hand in preventing accidents.
Alex Brown, Systems Technician at Island Roads, said: “The focus of this development has been to enable the public to report their highway related issues to us easily, with the necessary information for us to respond appropriately and deal with the issues effectively. The project team at mySociety were excellent to work with and developed a solution which met our specific requirements.”
Image: Mypix [CC BY-SA 4.0]
London’s best known and most-visited neighbourhood is now covered by FixMyStreet Pro. If a user is living, working or sightseeing in the borough of Westminster, their reports will drop directly into the council’s own MSDynamics365 system.
In this first phase, the following categories are covered, with potholes, street signs and lights to follow soon:
Users can make a report either via fixmystreet.com or on the Westminster website, and in either case they’ll go directly into the council systems to be dealt with. There’s also the option to use the council’s My Westminster portal.
The council was satisfied with its internal systems for report handling, but both senior staff and councillors agreed that they wanted to offer something more user-friendly for their website visitors.
mySociety’s knowledge and experience helped us deliver this project smoothly to further improve the efficiency and transparency of our City Management teams
FixMyStreet Pro is the ideal solution in this situation: we’ve worked for years on making the interface resolutely simple for all to use, and it can connect seamlessly with any existing internal set-up.
Councillor Paul Swaddle, Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Digital, Westminster City Council, says: “mySociety have been professional, from the point of contracting all the way through to deployment of our new ‘Report it’ application.
“Their team worked in partnership with council staff to integrate FixMyStreet into our systems including CRM against challenging timescales. They also supported us in delivering several successful resident engagement sessions, and quickly reflecting user feedback in the WCC branded version of the site.
“mySociety’s knowledge and experience helped us deliver this project smoothly to further improve the efficiency and transparency of our City Management teams.”
As with all FixMyStreet Pro installs, this one has its own distinct features. It’s been a very collaborative project with the council, in which they’ve provided a specialised adapter that allows FixMyStreet to connect with their CRM, and we managed the configuration and a single sign-in functionality.
This involved integration with the council’s own My Westminster log-in, a pre-existing service where users can keep track of their reports, planning applications and so on.
As well as the normal interfaces, you can now make a report through a My Westminster account, and this means that only a single log-in is required: ideal for the local resident who may be completing several community-based tasks in short order. We’ll be writing more about this in a forthcoming post.
Westminster use Microsoft Dynamics 365 for their CRM, so FixMyStreet Pro needed to be able to pass reports into it and retrieve status updates back from it, all with no interruption to users or staff. This was achieved with an adapter, specially created by Westminster’s IT department, and the Open311 protocol which allows for a standard report output.
This installation also features something we haven’t implemented before: anonymous reporting. For a really frictionless experience, users can log an issue without providing contact details or even a name. Of course, if this option is chosen, they won’t get any updates to the report’s status, but it certainly makes things quick and easy.
Westminster have been a shining example of best practice when it comes to implementing a new service. They did something that ideally all authorities would do when introducing a new online system, inviting potential users in to have a go, and feed back their thoughts.
Once they had had a chance to enjoy that amazing view from the council offices, local residents tried out the report making interface. mySociety designer Martin was there to take notes, and users’ feedback was added directly into our development roadmap.
We hope that they, and all residents of Westminster, will be happy with their new service.
If you would like to explore the installation of FixMyStreet Pro for your own council, please do drop us a line and we’ll be happy to talk.