Philadelphia’s 311 Data Helps Pinpoint District 8 Trash Problem Areas

Philadelphia, like many cities, has a 311 system that lets residents submit service requests for City services. Philadelphia’s OpenDataPhilly provides easy access to the City’s 311 service request data.

The 311 data is an excellent tool for assessing trash issues for several reasons:

  • Service requests include date, address and service request type
  • Latitude & longitude provided to assist in data mapping

I downloaded the OpenData Philly 311 data file (11/16/16 version) to assess how it could be used by neighborhood groups and others to assess trash trends  in their neighborhoods.

The raw data includes 1,127,523 records, a large data set for the period from 12/8/14 to 11/16/16. Since I am interested in trash, I prepared a data subset of just those service requests related to trash, 116,587 records,  10.3% of all the 311 records. I then extracted only those trash requests in District 8, 17,021 to allow me to study District 8 trash issues.

District 8 Trash Photos

Philadelphia’s 311 system allows users to submit photos, a significant advantage when assessing trash conditions.  242 trash photos are included in the District 8 311 trash records, here are a few examples:

District 8 Trash Service Requests

Here’s a summary of District 8’s 17,021 trash service requests by category:

  • Maintenance Residential & Commercial: 5,753
  • Rubbish/ Recyclable Collection:                  3,608
  • Illegal Dumping:                                                   3,420
  • Vacant Lot clean-up:                                            1,667
  • Vacant House:                                                         1,610
  • Sanitation/dumpster violation:                          768
  • Boarding Room House:                                          195

Illegal dumping is the 3rd most frequent 311 trash service request, after Maintenance Residential Commercial and Rubbish/Recyclable Collection calls. Clearly 8 residents are calling the City to report illegal dumping District 8. Neighborhood groups, CDCs and elected officials need to assess how we are handling the trash dumping issue, are we making progress or are we being inundated with a flood of illegal dumping. The 311 data can help us to understand the situation.


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