See a pothole? Tweet it to the city of Madison Heights

New program aims to quickly fix roads via social media

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 4, 2016

MADISON HEIGHTS — The next time you see a pothole in Madison Heights, park somewhere safe, pull out your tablet or smartphone, and tweet the pothole’s location to the city’s official handle (@citymadhts) with the hashtag #madhts
fix. You can even include a picture if you want.

Then the clock starts ticking. Within mere hours, staff from the Department of Public Services will be dispatched to fix the pothole. The city will then report back to residents on social media when the work is done.

The #madhtsfix initiative is the work of Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss in collaboration with the DPS. The idea is to give residents a more direct means of notifying the city about potholes, and to provide speedier results.

“I pay attention to trends in other communities across the nation, and one trend we’re starting to see is social media not only being used to communicate to residents, but to communicate with residents,” Bliss said. “Instead of simply posting when and where a meeting is or what happened at a meeting, we can take the next step and allow residents to affect immediate change.”

Whereas in the past, a pothole may have gone unreported and unaddressed until DPS staff happened upon it themselves, now residents can immediately bring it to the city’s attention and expect to have it resolved within hours, he said. 

“Yes, by allowing people to post this on social media, we’re putting a spotlight on everything that could be potentially wrong with the city — in this case potholes and where they’re located. But we’re saying we’re going to fix them, and that countdown begins the second we receive the tweet,” Bliss said. “We’d rather know as soon as possible. Once we fix them, they won’t be there.”

He said the program will give residents a stronger sense of ownership over their community. And the program will produce measurable results, with the number of potholes reported and the rate at which they’re addressed being key statistics. Bliss said he has faith in the DPS and its ability to deliver this service.

“The system will give us time-stamped data we can aggregate and share with the public regarding response times and average time of completion,” Bliss said. “I’m excited about our residents having direct control over city resources and instant accountability.”

Joe Vitale, DPS director, said now is a good time to roll out this program since the milder winter means there will probably be fewer potholes, allowing all parties to ease into the new system.

“It’s been a milder winter, so we’ve had less frequent freeze-thaw cycles that are brutal on the roadways. Still, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any potholes,” Vitale said. “Anytime that hashtag is referenced, my staff and I will be notified via email, and we’ll go out and address the pothole. I think this is just another avenue for our residents who are embracing the social media platform to notify us of something that might warrant attention out on the road. It’s a good way to open up communication between residents and DPS.”

Bliss said he’s happy the idea has come together.

“I’m really happy my peers on council and city staff allow me to go down these rabbit holes, since I think as the world changes and more people embrace technology as a way of life, the city government has to adapt.” Bliss said. “It has to be a two-way street where we can communicate to our residents and they can communicate to us.”