Minneapolis 311’s Problem Punting Problem

Can I call 311 to report problems with 311?

Or, will 311 punt that problem back to me?

I really don’t know the answer to that based on my recent experiences with the promising but occasionally underwhelming city service.

Randall Dietel’s recent tweet let me know that I’m not alone in my frustration:

For example, check out this exchange with Minneapolis 311:

From: Ed Kohler
Subject: Lake Street LRT Stop Elevators Smell like urine

They seem overdue for a thorough cleaning.

– Ed Kohler

The response:

Dear Mr. Kohler,

We appreciate your email. Light rail is owned and maintained by Metro Transit. They can be reached at 612-373-3333 or via their webpage at www.metrotransit.org

If there is anything else we can help you with please contact us. Thank you for emailing the City of Minneapolis.


Minneapolis 311
Office 612-673-3000 Hours: 7 am – 7 pm (Monday – Friday)
Email minneapolis311@minneapolismn.gov

Interesting, eh?

If there is graffiti on my house, or my property wreaked of urine, would the city take the same approach? Would they tell people to call me to solve their problem? I doubt it.

If graffiti was reported on the Target store 50 yards from the stinky LRT elevators, wouldn’t 311 hold Target responsible for maintaining their property?

Why is Metro Transit, who owns property in the City of Minneapolis, treated differently than individual property owners?

Here is a slightly different punt of the same problem from November 2012:

LRT elevator smells like urine

The above screenshot shows a report I filed with 311 using the city’s smartphone app. I took a picture of the South elevator door, geocoded the photo, and described the problem. Here was 311’s response:

LRT Smells like Urine

Unlike the first example, this time the 311 responder didn’t seem to bother reading the report before closing it. But, one thing is consistent. They’ve chosen to punt the problem back to the person reporting it, me, rather than hold the property owner responsible for maintaining their property. If they believe the school is the problem, 311 should work with the school to solve the problem, just like they’d hold personal private property owners responsible for the state of their properties.

8 thoughts on “Minneapolis 311’s Problem Punting Problem”

  1. @Jeff, it seems like Minneapolis would benefit from tracking how much pain Metro Transit and Hennepin County cause Minneapolis residents when they don’t maintain property they own within city limits. I hope someone at the city agrees.

  2. Glad that you guys have raised this as an issue. Minn 311 has been really easy to work with in our experience and I’m sure they can find a way to assist in these issues differently if is not working for the users.

    We have started a conversation with the City to try and assist as we see this issue around proper status change and reassignment to entities outside of the City in many of the other cities where SCF is heavily used.

  3. I’ve had pretty good success with the city’s app. All of the problems I’ve submitted were resolved within a week or so. I reported the school I work for poor sidewalk shoveling and it was taken care of.

    I’ve experienced similar frustration when trying to report park board property issues. They say, basically the same thing – here’s the number to report it at the park board (who by the way sucks royally at clearing snow – any business that did such a horrible job would get fined).

    When I use to e-mail 311 I’d get super annoying responses back about graffiti like – what type of surface is it on, what color – seriously? The guy in the truck responding to it will have both paint and cleaner. UGH.

    The Park Board issue is what really gets me. I’ve never tried reporting anything about Metro Transit – but it sounds like our governing bodies don’t communicate so well…

  4. @Ben, thanks for chiming in. I dig the app. It’s helped lower the bar for reporting issues to the city, which is a good thing. The breakdown seems to be how those reports are handled.

  5. It’s too bad that the elevator stinks like urine, and obviously everyone would like to see the problem solved, but your reaction is sort of perplexing. If Metro Transit (the Met Council), another public entity, has jurisdiction over the property, why wouldn’t it be their responsibility to clean it up? I guess the 311 response, in my opinion, doesn’t really deserve the aggravated descriptor of “punting.” It’s like criticizing Minnetonka PD for not solving a crime in Duluth. I guess I don’t track the logic.

  6. @James, it comes down to this:

    “Why is Metro Transit, who owns property in the City of Minneapolis, treated differently than individual property owners?”

    311 does help get problems solved on most of the property within city boundaries, bot public and private. But, seems to punt if Metro Transit or Hennepin County is involved.

  7. Ed,
    I’m going to make a prediction. In the next few years you’re going to be spending a whole lot of your time engaged with the playground equipment at city parks. If the only issue were that it’d been peed on, I’d be a lot happier. I called 311 to report kids at a park trying to play on a see-saw that was literally broken in half. They gave me the brush off. I flagged down a passing squad car and talked to the cops who were able to escalate it and get something done.

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