MAR 31 2015
Photo by Alana Reid. Used with permission.
An oasis in the middle of the city, Reno’s Virginia Lake is a popular place for strolling, picnicking, and observing the abundant waterfowl. But in recent years, the lake has suffered from declining water quality and overgrowth of algae.
In the summer of 2014, Reno’s Public Works department decided it was time to act. The City of Reno embarked on a water quality study to identify contributing factors, and potential solutions. They invited the public to weigh in on four options related to the condition of the lake.
To include a broad range of voices in this discussion, Reno deployed a Textizen survey and promoted it through social media, newspapers, the City’s e-newsletter, and flyers posted around town. The survey offered the chance to vote on the proposed options, as well as share favorite lakeside activities and where in Reno (or outside the city) the respondents live.
“People who couldn’t make it to the public meetings were thrilled that they could still make their voices heard. We were amazed at how citizens responded to being included in the process.”
Digital Engagement Program Manager, City of Reno
It seemed like a lively, but fairly typical, public feedback effort. But as the Textizen survey brought more people into the process, and word-of-mouth spread, something interesting happened.
NOV 20 2014
Field reporters sending idling reports via text.
From its beginning in 1967 as a two-person effort with a shoestring budget to its present-day status as a regional powerhouse, Philadelphia headquartered Clean Air Council has shown that hard work and efficient operation can be just as powerful as vast resources. Now, the Council is offering a prime example of how a lightweight and widely-used technology can be employed in a novel way to address local pollution and create change.
One key effort for Clean Air Council is fighting excessive vehicle idling, a common preventable cause of air pollution. The Council is no stranger to boots-on-the-ground activism: in early 2013, members David Lukens and Logan Welde earned a reputation for confronting idling drivers by knocking on windows and citing the city’s anti-idling laws.
By 2014, Lukens and Welde had decided to take the Council’s anti-idling efforts to the next level. Lukens forged a partnership between Clean Air Council and Textizen, and the two persuaded multiple Philadelphia agencies to test out a unique anti-idling initiative.
“Before Textizen, it was not easy to report idling vehicles in Philadelphia, nor was it possible to get those reports to the people that could help reduce idling. Now, reporting idling to our participating agencies is as easy as sending a text.”
Staff Attorney, Clean Air Council
How does it work? Trained volunteers who spot idling vehicles send in reports via text message, using a simple protocol to submit information in a matter of seconds. These reports are automatically forwarded to agency officials who have the power to shut down idlers in real time and enact internal policy changes.
Already, the new text message reporting system has helped Clean Air Council and its partner agencies collaborate on stronger anti-idling policies, improve enforcement, and reduce harmful pollution.