NEWS Houston mayor making good on 'pothole' campaign promise

The city of Houston is making good on Mayor Sylvester Turner's commitment to quick responses to pothole complaints, according to a report from Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Houston recently launched its pothole repair initiative, in which it aims to “assess and repair potholes reported to the 311 help and information line by the next business day.” As a part of this effort, the city also created a website to monitor its progress with respect to this goal. Two of the primary metrics displayed on the pothole tracker site are the outcome of 311 reported potholes and the percentage of potholes filled by the next business day.

The Kinder Institute confirmed the accuracy of the city's advertised rate of 94 percent of citizen-reported potholes filled by the next business day, as reported Jan. 21. The Kinder Institute noted that this percentage has fluctuated between 93 and 96 percent as the city receives and responds to new reports.

"The Kinder Institute was able to recreate the city’s method to calculate potholes filled by the next business day and confirm the accuracy of the numbers they have presented based on that approach," said Kyle Shelton, program manager for the Development, Transportation and Placemaking Program at the Kinder Institute. "Beyond confirming those numbers, we have suggested a few improvements to reporting the data and other changes that we believe might clarify what’s being counted.”

Suggestions included estimating the overall time it takes the city to assess 311 calls and additional breakouts of the categories of response to reports of potholes to further clarify its numbers and methodology for the public.

The city provided the Kinder Institute researchers with the underlying data from the 311 calls and from Public Works and Engineering Department service requests as well as work orders for the dates of Jan. 4-21. The city of Houston merged these data sets and calculated additional variables to compute the numbers displayed on the pothole tracker website. The Kinder Institute researchers worked with the raw data to independently recreate the city’s merged table and calculated variables – the pieces of information that feed directly into the pothole tracker. The method for the Kinder Institute’s approach to checking the numbers, along with the data they used, will be available on the institute’s website.

"As an independent research institution, we are excited to be working with local partners like the city of Houston on tracking and analyzing data such as the pothole numbers," Shelton said. "Putting big urban data to work in this way can help improve public performance and, ideally, Houstonians’ daily experience with the city."

For more information or to download a copy of the full report, visit http://kinder.rice.edu/

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