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City of Portland’s 823-SAFE hotline now offered online

Posted by on March 2nd, 2016 at 8:27 am

traffic safety form
The new web form.
(PortlandOregon.gov)

There’s now a keyboard-ready alternative to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s excellent 823-SAFE hotline.

The city’s hotline has a great reputation among those in the know, who use it for things as diverse as a poorly timed traffic signal or a low-hanging branch. Even on issues that can’t be fixed immediately, a history of reports about a given location can alert city staffers to a bigger project worth tackling.

The phone hotline has been around for over a decade (at least), and many people also use the safe@portlandoregon.gov email version. Now the City of Portland offers a web-based version.

For some reason, you can’t use it without first creating an account on the city’s website (something the site prompts you to do). Fortunately, that process seems to have improved recently, too: today, for the first time in five years, I was able to easily change my password on the site.

Once you’ve successfully logged in, you need to re-enter your name, email address and phone number, and then describe the safety issue. You also have an option to upload photos.

The new site will supplement the PDX Reporter mobile app and the ORCycle mobile app, which is routed by the state transportation department to the relevant jurisdiction. And also the good old telephone — the hotline number remains the same.

823-SAFE is just one of the city’s various hotlines; others worth knowing about include those for street light outages, parking enforcement, damaged sidewalks, potholes and abandoned cars.

Ideally our city would have enough staff and funding to address all these relatively minor street safety and livability issues proactively; but until that happens, this crowd-sourcing approach is the best we can do.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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20 Comments
  • Joshua March 2, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Had no idea this number existed. Kinda wish we’d just use 311 like many other cities…

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley March 2, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Agreed. I’m glad the 832-SAFE hotline has been expanded (because phone calls, yuck), but I sure wish the City could de-silo-ize itself enough to have a single reporting point for city problems.

      I had one or two public-facing assignments during my career there, and the “Sorry, not my table” mentality always drove me nuts. A point of pride (and job satisfaction) for me and many of my long-term colleagues was having accumulated enough institutional knowledge to know who to direct a caller to when we couldn’t answer their question ourselves: personal connections, the ability to say, “Hang on, let me just call my friend Judy over in Licenses and get you an answer.”

      It’s an expensive and unreliable way to provide customer service, however, and there was very little in the City’s management structure to encourage anyone to develop those skills.

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      • B. Carfree March 2, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        What you describe is the hallmark of a well-functioning organization. Sadly, we are mostly exposed to failed organizations where “Not my job” is the mantra. Quality management makes sure all staff are trained to get the customer (public) the help and answers they need. Poor management is more concerned with control and compartmentalization than with getting the job done.

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  • Ian Stude March 2, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Michael: Did you happen to request data from PBOT regarding the volume of requests received and average time it takes for requests to be resolved? Also, has the city made available to you geographic data related to these requests? It would be interesting to see this system thoroughly evaluated, beyond the anecdotal stories about user satisfaction with their individual request.

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley March 2, 2016 at 10:36 am

      Sarah Iannarone impressed me by (reportedly) saying she would make hiring a Chief Data Officer a high priority. We could certainly benefit from one.

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  • mh March 2, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Since the PDX Reporter app stopped working for me a few months ago, I’ve just been sending emails to safe@portlandoregon.gov. There you get the automated reply about their backlog that may leave your request months out. If the solution doesn’t require engineering, it’s not that long a wait.

    Perhaps I should remove and reinstall PDX Reporter. It was nice while it worked.

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  • Anna G March 2, 2016 at 10:38 am

    don’t forget about the “bike route need maintenance” tab on PDOTs bike info page, its a quick form for requesting sweeping of bike lanes etc. and does not require any log in or sign ups. Response time is about a week.

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley March 2, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks. I had no idea this existed. Here is a direct link if anyone’s curious.

      The tab is located 3/4 of the way down PBOT’s Active Transportation page. Because you gave me the exact name of the tab, I was able to Google it and get there in two clicks.

      However, Googling “report a bike lane problem in Portland” did NOT return that tab (let alone the reporting form) in my first page of results.

      Otherwise, the onerous path from City of Portland to the form is:
      City’s landing page–>Bureaus–>Transportation–>Services–>Active Transportation (scroll down to popular topics)–>Bicycling Info (scroll down to)–>Bike Route Need Maintenance?

      …at which point the relatively straightforward form appears. That’s six clicks, assuming you have any idea what to click on. Which many people wouldn’t.

      Alternatively, entering “report bike lane problem” in the search box on the City’s landing page returns a list of 2005-style search results (anything with “report” and “bike” and/or “lane”. The second item returned is the Bicycling Info page where, once again, you’d have to scroll down and know what you’re looking for to find the right menu item.

      tl;dr The City’s website is really really hard to use.

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  • spencer March 2, 2016 at 10:52 am

    I started using the orcycle app for problems and got nowhere, ODOT directed me to this, and after a request for a bike lane, I received a call a few weeks later. The initial striping process began that week. Another request for a downed sign was processed in less than a week. My feeling is that the city employees need these maintenance requests. They respond to them and do an excellent job. I think we get bogged down on wanting more asphalt/ concrete/ bollards (which cost $$$) but paint and sweeping can occur instantly if PBOT knows problem areas. If 20 people complain about narrow/ non existent lanes on PBOT property, they react quickly (unlike ODOT).

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  • TonyT
    TonyT March 2, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Sweet. Another reporting method that the traffic division can not respond to. Sorry, but I’m totally jaded. My neighbors and I requested enforcement on our greenway street for years and got nothing. Got the same non-response when I lived on N. Bryant, right where that kid got hit by the hit-and-run driver a couple of years ago

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    • Lester Burnham March 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Out on the east side we’ve been told for years there’s no money for speed reader boards, enforcement, or help of any kind with the speeding problem in our area…even a block from a elementary school.

      I agree, another useless phone number.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT March 2, 2016 at 1:13 pm

        Yup, our greenway is a block away from a school too. Counts for nothing.

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley March 2, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      Silos. It’s a traffic problem AND a law-enforcement problem AND sadly an emergency-response problem, and I think they just get so bound up in the inter-bureau spiderweb that nothing happens. It’s too hard.

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      • Eric Leifsdad March 2, 2016 at 11:56 pm

        Speeding is largely an enforcement problem, and if you want enforcement of the actual posted speed, PPB and multco courts just aren’t going to do it until someone(s) gets fired.

        There is a design component, but I don’t think we’ll see 8ft wide lanes and hard obstacles in the roadway, intersections, etc until the courts and police come a little closer to enforcing the posted speed.

        PBOT seems pretty responsive to things they can fix. They can’t fix PPB, the courts, or the mayor/council.

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        • paikiala March 4, 2016 at 9:08 am

          At the last active transportation summit in the vision zero session it was intimated from NYC that part of the issue is the meme in police circles that ‘traffic duty’ is a lesser use of resources. In reality, for most large metropolitan areas, traffic fatals outnumber murders. Changing this mindset is another hurdle to overcome.

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 2, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    I’ve used the phone number and email to report a very consistent speeding problem on Spring Garden between two schools and a daycare and have found the service ineffective. I like the idea, but the city is not doing anything to address it (no enforcement, no speed bumps which are part of their safe route to schools design, nada). I’ll use the website but I don’t have a lot of faith in the service.

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    • Kevin Wagoner March 2, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Just submitted a speedings issue and noticed there is a call back check box. I hope to get a call back.

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    • paikiala March 3, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Not getting the answer you want isn’t the same as not getting an answer.
      Spring Garden is proposed to become a Major Emergency Response Route. It is one of the few roads that cross I-5. If Portland Fire and Rescue supports speed cushions (an as yet to be approved device) for traffic slowing, funding will still need to be found to implement. Any future reinstatement of the traffic calming program is likely to have a strong equity component related to where sidewalks don’t already exist. As anyone who has been on Spring Garden lately can tell you, The brand new sidewalk on the north side is a great improvement to safe passage to both schools for local residents.

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  • chris March 5, 2016 at 11:30 am

    maybe they can get rid of those silly, overgrown with weeds, barrels out in the street at the corner of 33rd & Yamhill? When at the stop sign on 33rd, they really block visibility. I often look left, then right, and can’t see someone (usually a speeding prius) appear from nowhere on the left. And that painted flower on the street sure doesn’t help when braking in the rain.

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  • BIKELEPTIC March 5, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I wonder what the overlap of departments this is with the PDX Reporter app (as far as expenditures for tech in the city dept.) I use the app all the time and I see the need for other ways to contact to report for people that don’t have smart phones to be able to use the computer and people that don’t have either to call. But are these different departments or event different organizations entirely? What is the response time? With PDX Reporter, I usually get a 24 – 48 hour turnaround, and I use it FREQUENTLY with everything from potholes to illegal fencing to parking violations. Always get an email or call back by the next day and generally have the issues resolved within a couple days.

    When I’ve called or emailed directly sometimes I’ve had to deliver “actual notice” to get anything resolved.

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