Category Archives: General

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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’s 311 Data Shows That Philadelphians Hate Street Trash

Slide show on how we can use Philadelphia’s OpenDataPhilly 311 data to understand and solve our street trash problem.

Making Movie of Philadelphia’s 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests (Dec 1-14, 2016)

Philadelphia gets tens of thousands of 311 illegal dumping service requests each year.  As shown in previous posts, OpenDataPhilly’s 311 service data can provide key information on Philadelphia’s trash hot spots (here, here).

In this post, I’d like to walk through how I downloaded 311 illegal dump service requests for the first 2 weeks of December, 2016, identified the requests where residents submitted photos, downloaded the dump photos and then made a YouTube video of selected photos by trash type to show the diversity of dumped material in just this 2 week period.

Overview of 311 Data Retrieval and Analysis

Here’s the 7 step process I used to download and process the Philadelphia’s 12/1/16 to 12/14/16 311 service request data:

  1. Download each Illegal Dumping Service Request from OpenDataPhilly using R, an  open source software statistical software system.
  2. Assign Each Service Request to City Council District with point-in-polygon tool available in R
  3. Identify Service Requests that Include Media Url
  4. Download Illegal Dumping Service Request Photos from urls
  5. Manually Review Photos, Organize by type (Tires, Residential trash, furniture, mattresses, etc)
  6. Create video of representative dump photos by trash type
  7. Post video on YouTube

I used free, open source – public access resources, including R, Rsocrata, OpenDataPhilly and YouTube.

Let’s take a look at the resulting video to get a sense for what can be done with on-line 311 data. Here’s a link to the YouTube video:

Philadelphians reported 706 dumping service requests to 311 in the 12/1 to 12/14/16 period.  175 of these dump requests included photos, nearly 25%  of the dump service requests.

I grouped the dump requests into 6 categories based on dominant trash in the photo:

  • Tires
  • Residential Trash
  • Bulk Items, Furniture
  • Mattresses
  • Construction Debris
  • TVs

In previous posts, I’ve geocoded  the dump requests by Council District, neighborhood and street segments to help identify hot spots.

Philadelphia neighborhood groups, City Councilors, concerned residents can use the same 311 data to track neighborhood or Council District conditions.  Please contact me if  you would like more information on how to access Philadelphia’s 311 data to assess problems in your neighborhood.

Philadelphia’s Illegal Dumping Hot Spots

Philadelphia had 29,454 Illegal Dumping service requests (311 – OpenDataPhilly data) in the Jan., 2015 to Nov., 2016 period. Here is the breakdown by City Council District:

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Council Districts 1 and 2 have the highest number of Illegal Dumping service requests, followed by Districts 5 and 8. District 10 has the lowest count, less than 10% of Districts 1 and 2.

There are nearly 41,000 street segments in Philadelphia, 71% had no illegal dumping reports, while 46 (0.1%), had 20 or more illegal dumping reports.illegal_dump_sr_by_seg_tbl

These 46 high illegal dumping street segments are mapped by Council District below

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These high illegal dumping street segments are clustered in several Council illegal_dump_sr_gte_20_by_seg__by_cd_tblDistrict; Districts 2 and 3 had 14 and 11 hot spot segments,  Districts 7 and 8 had 6 each.

These 46 hot spot segments represent 0.1% of all City street segments and had 5% of all illegal dumping service requests.

Users can download a pdf file of the 46 hot spot segments here.

 

 

Is Philadelphia Winning or Loosing the Street Trash Problem?

Philadelphia has a major illegal dumping problem  that contributes to the

311 Photo District 8: Furniture Dumping

311 Photo District 8: Furniture Dumping

City’s street trash problem. I have written about it in several previous posts (here, here, here). Philadelphia’s TV broadcast stations 6ABC and NBC10 have both reported on the problem.

The City has been fighting street trash for years. Penn Future’s Next Great City identified trash as one of the major priorities in the 2015 mayoral election (link).

So how is Philadelphia doing in our efforts to “clean-up our City”? Good question, unfortunately we do not have a clear, valid answer.

City Illegal Dumping Programs

Philadelphia has several programs to tackle illegal dumping, including the Streets Departments 6 Sanitation Convenience Centers, 311 illegal dumping service request responses and the Community Life Improvement Program’s (CLIP) vacant lot clean-ups.

Let’s take a look at the 311 Illegal Dumping and Vacant Lot Cleanup service requests trends to see how often our citizens report street trash issues.311_11_30_16_trend

The trend does not look good. We clearly have a seasonal trend, with higher number of requests in the summer months and lower 311 calls in cooler months. The 2016 fall numbers are considerably higher than the fall, 2015 call count.

My personal observations of District 8 trash hot spots indicate indicates that as soon as the City cleans up an illegal dump, it is re-trashed. Clean-ups are essential, however, we must increase our prevention efforts if we hope to slow the illegal dumping wave that is filling many of our streets and vacant properties with trash.

Why is Illegal Dumping So Critical to Street Trash Control?

Illegal dumping control is absolutely critical to an effective street trash control. Dumping is so rampant that many City agencies and others avoid proving trash receptacles in highly littered locations because past experience has taught them that trash receptacles are often attract residential and construction trash dumping.

Residential trash dumping does not make sense in a City with “free” weekly residential trash collection. yet we see residential trash across our City.  Residents can bring bulky items to one of the 6 Convenience Centers, yet we see many bulky trash items left along our roads.

I ask the Mayor and City Council to re-assess our street trash programs and see what we need to do to increase dumping prevention efforts, including increased camera and police surveillance in known trash dumping areas.

Mapping District 8’s 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests

Philadelphia’s 311 system allows users to submit photos related to their service requests. Click on the map below or (link) to see the 304 photos for District 8 Illegal Dumping Service requests between 12/8/14 and 11/16/16.

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You can view details of the Illegal Dumping Service Request by clicking on the black dot symbol for the service request.

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By pressing the More info link, you can see the submitted illegal dumping image.