Using Data to Tackle Philadelphia’s Street Trash Problem

Illegal dumping is a growing problem in Philadelphia (link)!  We need to understand  types – locations – frequency of  dumping to stop it. We have the data, we need better data analysis to effectively manage our trash problem.

Here are 3 charts that demonstrate how we can diagnose our trash dumping problem using January, 2017 311 illegal dumping service requests where citizens submitted photos.

Illegal Dumping Trash Types

jan_2017_type

Illegal Dumping Locations

jan_2017_event_type

Illegal Dumping Trash Events

jan_2017_location

Here’s what we can learn by studying the January, 2017 illegal dumping service requests.

  1. Residential trash (36%) was the most common type of dumping request, followed by tires and construction debris (12% each), mattresses (10%), mix of trash types (9%) and TVs (7%).
  2. 66% of illegal dumping requests  occurred on sidewalks, followed by 15% on/near vacant lots – buildings.
  3. 58% of dumping requests occurred at single event sites, 27% at multiple event sites ad 5% at chronic dumping sites.
  4. Big Belly’s accounted for 5% of Philadelphia illegal dumping service request sites.
  5. Loose litter accumulation accounted for 5% of Philadelphia’s 311 illegal dumping service requests.

 

Using 311 Request Data to Understand Philadelphia’s Street Trash Problem

Philadelphia’s  311 OpenData is an excellent research tool to investigate our street trash problem. Philadelphia has used data to fight crime (link) for a long time, it’s now time to use Philadelphia’s  311 data to fight street trash!

crime_311_data

We have many of the basic tools necessary for implementing a state-of-the-art street trash management system comparable to our crime data system. We need to increase the City’s focus on street trash and integrate our many resources into a concerted program to address this chronic problem.

In this post I want to show how the City’s 311 data system can be used to better understand our street trash problem and identify potential control strategies based on resident provided street trash data.

Analysis of January, 2017 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests

There were 1,277 illegal dumping service requests in January, 2017 (link). My earlier posts showed that illegal dumping service requests are increasing and that illegal dumping requests are increasing as a portion of all 311 field service requests (link).  What can we learn about the types and locations of trash being dumped?

We can use the photos submitted by 311 users to classify the requests by type of trash, dump site location  and dump situation conditions.  That’s just what I did.

I downloaded the 1,277  January, 2017  illegal dumping service requests from OpenDataPhilly,  selected those requests that had usable photos (302 )  and then classified request by Trash Description, Dump Location  Description, and Dump Site Characteristics. Here is a link to my on-line Google Sheet where you can view the classifications and check out the photos.

jan_2017_google_sheet

Click the Link  field  to view the resident’s submitted image. A new window will pop up showing the actual url with a small arrow . Click the arrow to navigate to the resident’s image.

link_navigation

I used a series of  pivot tables  to summaries of the Jan, 2017 illegal dumping requests. Here’s what I found out:

  1. Residential trash (36%) was the most common type of dumping request, followed by tires and construction debris (12% each), mattresses (10%), mix of trash types (9%) and TVs (7%).
  2. 66% of illegal dumping requests  occurred on sidewalks, followed by 15% on/near vacant lots – buildings.
  3. 58% of dumping requests occurred at single event sites, 27% at multiple event sites ad 5% at chronic dumping sites.
  4. Big Belly’s accounted for 5% of Philadelphia illegal dumping service request sites.
  5. Loose litter accumulation accounted for 5% of Philadelphia’s 311 illegal dumping service requests.

 

Philadelphia’s Rising Illegal Dumping 311 Requests: Update

In my February 2nd post, I showed how Philadelphia’s Illegal Dumping 311 requests have been rising since the City started systematic data collection in 2015 (link).

Philadelphia’s 311 calls and on-line requests have been growing since January, 2015, so it is fair to ask whether  Illegal Dumping requests are increasing as a share of  all 311 service requests.  I will give a quick answer then I will explain how I arrived at the answer for those interested in the details.

Yes, Illegal Dumping is increasing as a percentage of all 311 field service requests, as shown in the chart below.

idsr_percent_all_sr_trend

Since information and directory assistance calls are included in the 311 OpenDataPhilly file, I removed them from the 1.2 million 311 records to determine the identify the field service requests.  I then computed the Illegal Dumping requests as a percentage of the monthly field service requests, as shown above.

The illegal dumping trend is quite clear. Philadelphia residents are submitting more and more illegal dumping requests to 311  each month. The exception was January, 2016. It turns out that we had a 22.4 inch snow storm on January 24th which depressed the number of illegal dumping requests as residents had the pressing challenge of shoveling snow.

This is just a small example of the important information hidden i the City’s 311 raw data. Now that we have a well organized 311 data reporting and tracking system, we need to move forward with a routine analysis of our 311 data to understand trends and patterns.

Philadelphia Police’s Crime & Maps web page  provides an excellent example of how we should use the City’s 311 data to prepare regular management reports for City officials, Council members and residents.

Street Trash = Illegal Dumping + Litter

Philadelphia has a street trash problem that is being mislabeled as a litter problem. We all understand litter, the soda bottle, snack food wrapper that is tossed on the sidewalk. Unfortunately we tend to use litter for all  “street trash”, both gross illegal dumping and the extraneous snack food wrapper.

I have started using street trash to label all street-sidewalk-vacant lot-park space debris, including tires, TVs, mattresses, bulky items-furniture, residential trash as well as the pedestrian snack food droppings. All is trash, all has wound up in our common space, hence the term street trash.

Here are several Philadelphia 311 illegal dumping service request photos taken from the 311 OpenDataPhilly website (link) on Monday, February 6, 2017.

We will only have clean streets when we address and begin to control our illegal dumping crisis. Much of what we call litter actually start as bags of residential trash that are placed on a sidewalk by someone unwilling to wait until the next trash day.

Let’s start to call all dumpers by their right name, DUMPERS.  An old mattress or soda bottle tossed on the sidewalk comes from the same thoughtless behavior. We need to go after all dumpers, big and small.

Philadelphia’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet (link, link) is a great opportunity for Philadelphia to  begin to control out waste & trash future. It is absolutely critical that we recognize the importance of illegal dumping in litter efforts. We need to tackle both illegal dumping and litter to get our streets to the cleanliness level that we want.

Philadelphia Vacant Land & Building Indicator Data Check: Update 2/2/17

This post updates my 1/25/17 post about the City’s Vacant Land & Bldg Indicator data set. This important resource is now available on-line here.

This post reports on interactions with the City on the vacancy status of   437 Collom Street and discusses follow-up field survey and review of L&I’s property history for the site.

City staff responded quickly to my inquiry on the vacancy status of 437 Collom Street as follows:

“Thank you for checking this address. There is only one indicator that had this address, and it is not highly weighted. So the resulting score fell below or 50% confidence value for publishing in the VPI as potentially vacant.”

The City’s response shows just how difficult it is to diagnose vacancy status from data files. Utility data and other City property data resources can provide important information but can not provide 100% accuracy.

Based on the City’s response I took another look at 437 Collom Street to better understand the property situation. L&I had issued an Unsafe Structure Notice notice on 1/25/17.

Here are some photos from 1/27/17:

I then reviewed L&I Property History (link) to see what previous L&I activity at the property.  Here is a screen shot of L&I’s history:

li_violation_history

Review of these history records indicate that the City had issued a violation in July, 2011 and a vacant property license in 2012 which expired in 2015.  CLIP issued a property violation in Dec., 2016.

 

Philadelphia’s Illegal Dumping Continues to Rise

Philadelphia 311 service requests for January, 2017 show that the number of illegal dumping requests continues to rise. The January, 2017 number of 1,277 illegal dumping service requests is 55% higher than the January, 2016 count of 821.

311_illegal_dump_sr_trends_jan_2017_1

This is a not a good stat for hopes of cleaner Philadelphia streets in 2017.   2016 already had a 35% increase in dumping service requests over 2015 (link).

Here is the illegal dumping requests by Council District along with a count of photos submitted as part of 311 service request.

jan_2017_idsr_by_district

28% of the 1,277 illegal dumping service requests included a photo documenting the trash conditions.

I culled the 361 photos to this set of 16 that reflect the street trash problem in Philadelphia in January, 2017.

Philadelphia Vacant Land & Building Indicator Data Check

I previously wrote about Philadelphia’s innovative use of technology to identify potential vacant buildings and properties in this  Nov. 16, 2016 post. The data is readily available on the OpenDataPhilly site (link to data).

This article provides background information on how the City develops the Vacant Property Indicators. In this post I want to show how citizens can field verify the Vacant Property Indicators data.

In my District 8 travels, I found a number of chronic illegal dumping sites, including the 400 Block of Collom Street.

Based on my visits to the 400 Block of Collom St, I  know that there is a large vacant commercial property and building that is used as an illegal dumping site.  I wanted to see how the City’s Vacant Property Indicator data assessed this properties in the 400 Block of Collom Street.

Using ArcMap 10.4,  I developed a map included the Vacant Property Indicators and the Philadelphia Department of Revenue parcel boundaries.  Here is a screenshot of the resulting map:

437_collom_st_composite_map

The Vacant Property Indicator (11/16 version latest available on OpenDataPhilly) does not show 437 Collom to be vacant.

September, 2016 Google StreetView photography is available for the 400 Block of Collom Street. Here are screenshots looking NE and SW.

Google StreetView and my repeated visits to the site confirm to me that 437 Collom St is vacant while the Vacant Property Indicators do not classify the either the property or building as vacant.

I will raise this finding with the OpenDataPhilly Discussion Group (link) and will report back on any updates.