Category Archives: 311 Open Data

Residential Access to Philadelphia’s Sanitation Convenience Centers

Philadelphia has 6 Sanitation Convenience Centers (SCC) that provide residents  safe, free, reliable disposal sites for excess trash and special items like tires and TVs,electronics.

These Centers are a critical resource for the City’s Zero Waste and Litter efforts, however, there are two residential access issues that must be addressed to ensure their potential effectiveness:

  1. Approximately 33% of Philadelphia Housing Units do not own or lease a vehicle, presenting a serious challenge to residents with excess trash. How do they get their excess trash to an SCC?

    This map shows the of % households without a  vehicle by Census Tract. More than 50% of households do not have a vehicle in 71 census tracts.
    Residents how do not have access to a vehicle so that they can not use the City’s Convenience Centers without borrowing or renting a vehicle.
    We may need some type of trash taxi service for those households without access to a vehicle.

  2. For those households with a vehicle, travel times from residents’ home to an SCC and back can present a significant time challenge. The following map shows the estimated one-way travel times areas for 5, 10 and 15 minutes trips.

    I think that a 15-minute one-way travel time (30 minutes round trip) is the upper limit for residents to transport excess trash to a SCC on a regular basis.

Residents access to an SCC is critical for reducing illegal dumping. The City will need to improve access to the SCCs for households without vehicles and those outside the 15-minute travel time zones


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.


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.


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:


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.

LA Cleanliness Index More Effective Than Philadelphia’s Litter Index

(Philadelphia’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet released a significantly enhanced 2017 Litter Index in February, 2018. Please see that post to see how the City has improved the Litter Index to a level comparable to LA’s index (LINK)


Philadelphia has been using a litter index to assess street trash conditions since 2007 (link). Here is the most recent litter index, downloaded from OpenDataPhilly.  The actual dates for the litter survey data is not provided.


Philadelphia’s Litter Index provides a 1-4 composite score for 111 trash collection day area in the City. The City’s meta data file states:

The Litter Index is used to compare the relative cleanliness of different areas of the city of Philadelphia. he relative cleanliness of different areas of the city of Philadelphia.

Originally created in 2007, the Litter Index is used to compare the relative cleanliness of different areas of the city. The Litter Index is scored on a 1-4 scale with 1 being minimal litter and 4 being extremely littered.

The City’s Litter Index has a number of shortcomings which limit its usefulness as a City trash hot spot identification and management tool.

  • Data collection is based on relatively large areas, with an average of 2.2 square miles. Seriously trash street segments are masked when the data is averaged over such a large area.
  • Street Litter Index Values for specific areas vary widely from survey to survey, raising concerns about the reliability of the underlying methodology (link).
  • There is no relationship between 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests and Street Litter Index.


Los Angeles has developed a Street Cleanliness Index (link) which provides detailed street segment by segment data not available in Philadelphia’s index.

Here is a short video describing how LA used a dashcam, smartphone camera and ArcGIS to score each street segment in LA.

LA  uses assigns a  1 to 3 cleanliness score for Loose Litter, Illegal Dumping, Weeds and Bulky Items as well as a composite score.  Here is an example of the LA Cleanliness Score Map , showing segments with Clean, Somewhat Clean and Not Clean scores.


With the LA method, the Not Clean (red) segments standout.  Philadelphia needs to adopt a detailed street litter index score system like LA so that we can pinpoint the badly trash street segments and begin getting our trash problems under control.

Philadelphia’s Illegal Dumping 311 Requests increased 35% from 2015 to 2016

Many Philadelphians say that our streets are littered, we now have the numbers to back up that opinion. Here’s a comparison of 2015 and 2016 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests City-wide and by Council District. We had 17,384 in 2016, 35% more than we had in 2015. While Illegal Dumping reports went up in all 10 Council Districts in 2016, Districts 2 and 5 saw 65% and 42% increases, respectively.  District 3, on the other hand, only increased 11%.



2900 Block N 19th Street Trash: Sept., 2016 and Jan., 2017 Views

Google Street View and Philly311 are 2 sources of photographs of street trash in Philadelphia.  A concerned Philadelphia resident submitted an illegal dumping service request for 2953–2999 N 19th St to 311 on Jan 2nd.  They included this photo.2900_bl_n_19th_st_311_photo

Here’s the Google Street View of the same location taken in Sept., 2016, just 3-4 months ago.2900_bl_n_19th_st_google_st_view

Yes, things have gotten worse in the past 3-4 months.  The tires and furniture have been dumped since Google passed by in Sept.

One of the key facts I have observed about trash dumpers, they return to the same dump sites over and over.

here are the same photos side-by-side for those who want to make a more detailed comparison.

311 Trash Request – 8000 Grovers Ave.: Example of Construction Debris Short Dumping

This 12/29/16 311 Illegal Dumping Service request for 8000 Grovers Ave shows extensive construction debris, likely from residential home remodeling work, as well as other trash. The work may have been done by a do-it-yourself homeowner of small contractor.


While the dumper had options for proper – legal disposal,  he/she chose to dump the debris. This dump site is within a few miles of 2 Philadelphia Sanitation Convenience Centers and 2 commercial trash haulers.


Philadelphia’s 6 Sanitation Convenience Centers (link) are a great resource for residents  that need to be more widely advertised. My experience is that many/most Philadelphians are unaware of this free service.

The Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet needs to closely examine how we handle home remodeling construction debris and develop strategies prevent dumping of this debris in our streets and vacant lots.