Government Operations on Holidays Made Seamless with 311

Municipal offices close, but government operations on holidays don’t have to. See how the city of Boston approaches 311 services.


During holiday weekends like Independence Day, courts, post offices and most banks are closed. Local municipal offices are also closed, and trash and recycling pickups are delayed. However, public works needs accrue on streets, in parks and throughout a community, and they can still be supported while staff is ‘OOTO’ with technology.

Citizens have a tendency to view certain public services as 24/7, 365 -- such as public safety, or emergency management. A broken traffic light, a streetlight or needles and other hazardous litter, however, can get a citizen calling -- or wanting to send a smartphone photo -- to public services at any time.

With tech-enabled 311 services, cities can automate reports and notifications to the appropriate municipal departments, and can even issue departmental alerts to staff on-call. Anything pertinent to safety can be addressed while local municipal offices are closed, and non-urgent maintenance needs can be logged into the right queue for when offices re-open.

311 services are great for any muni -- from small towns, counties and more populated cities like WalletHub’s 2017 95th Worst City to Drive In -- Boston. On holidays like ‘The Fourth,’ streets, parks, restaurants, retail stores and health resources are still open for business, but so is Boston’s 311 service.

Citizens call, or if they can’t get through on a VOIP line (and don’t know the direct dial number), they can just Tweet it out like this local “Father, husband #mobility and #IoT guy:"

If more than 140 characters are warranted, citizens can select one of the more common public works issues from bed bugs to zoning on Boston’s 311 website, and email their reports.

There’s also the BOS:311 app for highly engaged public service reporters.

And if Bostonians want to know if Mayor Marty Walsh’s teams are on their reports, they get a tracking number via email and can inquire online. Which beats fighting traffic to go visit City Hall Plaza.

Local governments can also use 311 to report problems to other agencies -- such as parks and rec or leverage technology for everything from emergencies to attracting visitors.

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.