Boston has a history of using technology to improve city services. The Office of New Urban Mechanics began in 2010, but even before that, the city launched Citizens Connect, a mobile app alternative to the 311 hotline used to report issues around the city.
With the new Boston.gov, services are even easier to access. The homepage shows you what you need to know about issues that will impact your day (parking restrictions, street cleaning, and building closures) and quick access to frequently visited pages.
One or two clicks beyond the homepage will get you to a range of services you can handle from home or on your phone as you are out and about. Here the top 10 things you can handle on Boston.gov:
1. Register to vote or update your voting location
This is number one because it’s that time of year! The last day to register to vote is Wednesday, October 19, 2016. You can vote early from October 24 through November 4.
2. Request a service or report an issue
For decades, a Boston resident could report a non-emergency issue or request a service by dialing 311. In 2009, Boston launched an app, Citizens Connect, to take reports. Now you can send a tweet to @BOS311 or just go to the Boston.gov website. The homepage has links to the most popular requests:
- Report a missed curbside pickup
- Get a pothole fixed
- Get a street cleaned
- Get rid of a big item
- Request needle clean-up
- Request graffiti removal
- Report a broken street sign
- Report a broken traffic signal
- Pay a parking ticket
- Report a street lamp is out
A related service is StreetBump, a mobile app that gathers data about Boston’s streets to find and fix problems and plan long-term infrastructure improvements. The accelerometers and GPS on your mobile phone records data about trouble spots that may not get reported.
3. Make peace with parking
From parking tickets (no judgment: it happens to the best of us) to residential parking permits, all can be done online. Get a temporary permit for your moving truck or avoid traffic disruptions with traffic advisories. You can even stay on track of metered parking with the ParkBoston app.
4. Pay your taxes online
Though paying property taxes may be the main reason to visit the City’s online tax collection portal, it’s not the only thing you can do there. You can also pay your car excise tax or look up the assessed value and taxes for any property in the city.
5. File for a residential tax exemption
Here’s some good news about Boston property taxes: if you own and live in your primary residence, you are eligible for a residential exemption. Be sure to file for the exemption before April 1.
6. Track trash and recycling pickup
Need to confirm the trash/recycling pick-up after a holiday? Check the schedule by your address. Not sure what to do with an item? You can also look up how to get rid of it. You can even download a mobile app to keep on track.
7. Stay up-to-date with street cleaning
Part of owning a car in Boston is becoming a master of the street cleaning schedule so your car doesn’t get towed. That’s easier said than done so the city offers a searchable database, information on special situations like holidays and the fifth week in a month, and an alert system to let you know when there’s street cleaning at your address.
8. Fetch a dog license
Dogs over six months old must be licensed each year. You’ll need to current rabies certificate, proof of spay or neuter (the license costs more if your dog is not), and the current license number if you are renewing. The deadline each year is April 1.
9. Schedule a smoke and carbon monoxide detector inspection
Anytime a property is sold, it must have a Certificate of Compliance for Smoke Detectors and a Certificate of Compliance for Carbon Monoxide detectors. You can sign up for an inspection online, but be sure to do it at least 10 days in advance.
10. Register for school with Discover BPS
This isn’t the Boston.gov site itself, but the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics worked with BPS to develop Discover BPS, where you can easily register your child for school. Once your child is in school, you can track their school bus with Where’s My SchoolBus.
- VOTE!, photo by Michael Pittman via Flickr Creative Commons (image cropped)
- “Smart” parking job, photo by gillicious via Flickr Creative Commons (image cropped)
- Recycling Troopers, photo by Alan Levine via Flickr Creative Commons (image cropped)
- Arlo with Boston city skyline, photo by Kyle Freeman
- School buses by AtelierKS via Pixabay