How Louisville’s History of Published Service Calls is Transforming 311


The city of Louisville has become one of the first to publish comprehensive citizen service request data using an Open 311-compatible bulk dataset — 23 years’ worth, to be exact. Louisville’s data is hosted by GovDelivery DKAN, providing the city with a variety of cataloging, publishing, and visualization options for their datasets.

Now with the release of Louisville’s massive service request dataset, consumers can access all the records of non-emergency civic issues (think potholes, graffiti, etc.) in Louisville between the years of 1993 and 2016. And it all exists within the Open 311 standards that provide consistency for 311 data sharing across jurisdictions, helping to lay the groundwork for reusable tools leveraging this bulk data.

Standardizing bulk data

This is a breakthrough for the publishing of service requests as open data. Although a growing number of cities have been publishing datasets using Open 311 standards, there did not exist a format suitable for bulk download of large amounts of data — such as a DataPackage or CSV — which open data platforms typically support.

Louisville’s dataset (as well as this one in Bloomington) is based on the GeoReport Bulk specification for Open 311 — a proposed new data specification developed by the Center for Government Excellence to tackle the problem of publishing bulk data in standardized formats. The goal is to make it easier for consumers to understand and build on the data, especially across agencies.

“Using this data standard helps cities like Louisville publish information with a lot less confusion about how they should share it,” explains Andrew Nicklin, whose work on untangling service request data drove the creation of the bulk data spec for Open 311. “Since most cities don’t publish data dictionaries with their open data, aligning to the standard makes it easier for consumers to understand what each column represents, while reducing the friction for data consumers who want to collect service request data from multiple jurisdictions.”

Nicklin says the work of streamlining 311 data is far from over. Having achieved standardization of column names in the proposed specification used by Louisville, the next step — albeit a challenging one — would be to standardize the names of various service request types. For example, one city might use “Abandoned Vehicle” while another uses “Vehicle/Abandoned,” making it difficult to gain a picture of service request types across agencies at a glance.

More data, better insights

In the meantime,  visualizations can already be made based on the current proposed data specification, providing clearer insight for agencies and citizens about the needs of their community, and how those needs have changed over time.

By interpreting patterns in the times and types of service calls, as seen in this supercool steamgraph visualization, agencies can predict and prepare for busy times and seasons. They can also discover trends in public needs that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. The City of New York used this analytical approach to solve a strange 311 mystery. Lastly, visualizing 311 data can help citizens understand and appreciate the wide variety of services provided by their city — or perhaps discover areas where they are mostly likely to get bitten by a mosquito.

“311 data is one of the most interesting data sets a city can release,” says Michael Schnuerle, who has played a pivotal role in civic innovation for Louisville and was recently hired as the city’s first Data Officer. “For the future we will be automating the splitting of the data into years, and the latest month and week, and adding it to our DKAN API. We’re also looking at a real-time version to show requests as they come in, which would be useful in emergencies and special events.”

GovDelivery is proud to support Louisville’s open data efforts by providing the DKAN platform and assisting the city in its commitment to improve the lives of residents using data-driven evidence. With over two decades of previously unpublished data now available for bulk download in a standardized format, we can’t wait to see how Louisville uses it to facilitate better and smarter city services.

Want to learn more about open data at GovDelivery? Email us at and we’ll reach out to connect. 

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