Since the physical condition of neighborhoods has a serious impact on residents’ quality of life and on the perception of visitors to the City, ComNET, or Computerized Neighborhood Environment Tracking, is a tool used to measure the effectiveness of municipal services that affect the infrastructure and appearance of neighborhoods including the streets, sidewalks, refuse, abandoned vehicles, buildings, and vegetation. The CCPM adapted the ComNET program, originally developed by the Fund for the City of New York’s Center on Municipal Government Performance, for the City of Worcester. In collaboration with neighborhood associations across the City, the CCPM has trained over 100 resident volunteers in 14 of Worcester’s most economically – and socially-challenged neighborhoods over the past 7 years to use handheld computers and digital cameras to systematically record various physical problems.
During the survey, neighborhood residents are paired with Holy Cross and South High students to walk predetermined routes through each neighborhood and record the exact location of the physical problems and assets in the area. The information is then compiled and transmitted to the municipal departments and organizations that are responsible for addressing these problems. The survey is repeated on a regular basis to track the problems that were recorded in previous surveys and thus determine whether the overall physical condition of neighborhoods is improving.
As of December 2008, The Research Bureau has partnered with residents and students to conduct 59 surveys in neighborhoods throughout the City. The surveys cover 180 street miles, and the neighborhoods surveyed are home to about 1/3 of the City’s population (55,000 residents). Some of our findings include:
- More than 13,000 total problem conditions have been identified since 2001
- About 7 out of 10 previously recorded problems have been resolved
- What types of problems are most widely documented? 3
- 35% are sidewalk-related issues (trip hazards, cracks, etc.)
- 20% are street-related issues (potholes, dirt/sand, unevenness)
- 17% are sites with litter
- 12% are locations with overgrown weeds/ vegetation
- Who’s responsible for these problems?
- 61% Department of Public Works & Parks
- 24% the Community
- 13% Division of Code Enforcement