Raleigh, North Carolina, is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Between 2000 and 2014, the city’s population increased by 59 percent. Downtown Raleigh has experienced dramatic growth in new residents and businesses as well. The downtown’s retail base has increased by over 35 percent in the last four years, and events, festivals, museums, and attractions bring more than 3.5 million visitors to the downtown area each year.
Last fall, residents, and business owners raised concerns about litter and cleanliness in downtown. Although multiple groups—including the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s (DRA) Clean Ambassadors and staff from the departments of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources and Solid Waste Services—contribute to keeping downtown clean, the demand was outweighing available services. So the City of Raleigh turned to its robust GIS—and used AppStudio for ArcGIS for the first time to figure out what to do.
A Tool to Gather Location-Based Litter Data
Raleigh’s Office of Sustainability and DRA worked with their service partners to form a task force and create a plan of action for tackling the city’s litter problem. An eight-member team from the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources and Solid Waste Services departments was looking for a tool to gather location-based information about the density and types of litter in downtown. The City of Raleigh’s sustainability manager, Megan Anderson, contacted Raleigh’s GIS team to get help.
Collecting Litter Data
The litter audit took place in October 2015. The eight city staff members doing the audit received less than 15 minutes of training on the user-friendly mobile app, called Litter Reporter, just before they went out for the first time. Following the Clean Ambassadors’ cleaning routes, the auditors walked downtown six times a day at specific intervals over a period of three days to collect litter data. When they spotted litter, they photographed it; geotagged the location; and used the app’s quick-select menu to categorise it as paper, cigarette butts, containers, bottles, cans, food, or cardboard, for example. (Image: The Litter Reporter app allows users to photograph litter, geotag its location, and select its type.)
Growing Cities as Smart Cities
The department continues to use Litter Reporter every quarter to monitor trends and figure out how to efficiently manage litter downtown. Supplemental audits follow the same methodology, routes, and times as the first audit to ensure that the city is monitoring accurate trends.
“In general, there is a lot of information and buzz around smart cities and how cities are utilizing technology,” said Anderson. “The litter application is an example of how quickly the tools can be deployed to help cities gather data and make informed, smart decisions about how they deliver service. The process is an excellent model for understanding challenges faced by growing cities.”
ArcGIS—and especially AppStudio for ArcGIS—allowed the GIS team to collaborate deftly with the task force, providing its members with the tools they needed to gather data quickly and create actionable reports. Staff at the City of Raleigh will continue to use data and reports from the litter audit app to work cross-departmentally with DRA to evaluate options for increased levels of service downtown.