You’re on the bus. Another passenger is playing loud music, has their feet on the seat, and swears at anyone who asks them to stop.
What do you do?
It’s the sort of thing that can ruin your journey — but then again, perhaps you wouldn’t waste police time by reporting it.
Centro, the public transport provider for the West Midlands, wanted to minimise anti-social behaviour on their trams, buses and trains, and to ensure that passengers felt safe. So, to provide an alternative to calling 999, they set up the See Something, Say Something initiative, a simple channel by which non-urgent issues could be reported.
The initial campaign allowed passengers to send a text, report via a website, or call a freephone number. But Centro felt that one more channel would be useful for travellers: an app would allow for reports to be made on the spot, and unobtrusively.
Repurposing the FixMyStreet platform
That’s why FixMyStreet proved to be the ideal platform: it’s a report-making system which, depending on the user’s inputs of location and category, routes problems to the correct authority.
And it’s relatively easy to repurpose, which is why it has been used for a variety of location-based reporting systems, from clinics reporting medicine shortages, to cyclists reporting accident hotspots and TV viewers reporting empty homes.
For the Safer Travel campaign, an app built on the FixMyStreet platform would give the information that allowed for quick decisions to be made about response, and long-term decisions made about strategy.
The app was launched in February 2013; Centro promoted it across all their public transport, but especially via the advertising spaces available on buses and at bus stations.
When making a report, passengers are encouraged to use FixMyStreet’s inbuilt GPS capability to indicate their exact location, or to pinpoint the start of their journey if that wasn’t possible for any reason — matching that with the time of report and details about the passenger’s destination provides enough information for staff to piece together the route.
Reports go into a system called React, based at Centro’s Birmingham headquarters, where staff can follow up by checking CCTV. If contact details have been given, an officer may get back in touch and gather more information.
For this project, a deliberate decision was made to allow for anonymous reports (not the case on the existing FixMyStreet website) so that reporting could be as simple and quick as possible. This option also allays any concern that a miscreant might somehow trace the source of the report.
Nor are reports published on a public-facing website: information is accessible by Safer Travel staff only.
For them, it will prove useful in the battle against anti-social behaviour. Because FixMyStreet builds up an archive of past reports, it’s easy for the team to understand where patterns occur, and to put initiatives in place to target them appropriately.
See Something, Say Something is still an active campaign, and the app continues to be a key tool in Centro’s efforts to make everyone’s journeys that little bit safer and more agreeable.
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