October 19, 2011
By: Ben Shore

Let’s be serious.

As San Franciscans, we have learned to deal with – if not become immune to – the inefficiencies, expense and unresponsiveness of city government.

From building 10-foot ramps that take months and cost an incredulous $1.1 million (or thereabouts) to taking longer to install a stoplight than it did to build AT&T Park, we are far too familiar with services that we need and want taking forever to come to fruition.

And while the City’s leaders can explain, spin and perhaps assuage our dissatisfaction – if only temporarily – we invariably get presented with yet more “are you kidding me!?” moments.

One of those moments was covered in this recent story detailing how a city program to take Five Years to develop a new Municipal Railway application was, more or less, accomplished by a few dudes drinking beers and eating pizza over one weekend.

No, seriously.

A “small team of local residents” took it upon themselves to show the City how its done. Over a 48-hour span, they “coupled a GPS data feed…with a user interface that could allow MTA managers to more easily spot and fix problems.”

In review, they accomplished, in two days, something politicians and the City have been promising to bring us for years and have promised would take years to be delivered.

Reset has been clamoring for action like this since Day 1 – and we’ve been moving on it as well, with an app contest of our own.

The SMART Muni app – as it’s called – came about during a “hackathon” overseen by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. The “hackathon” was meant to bring to the forefront the creativity and ingenuity of San Franciscans to fix problems that affect them on a day-to-day basis. Other developments that came about were “Good Buildings” – an app that “crowd sources” myriad information about buildings in the City.

Additionally, there was “Market Guardians” – a site that helps Bayview-Hunters Point residents find more wholesome food. There were more. And that was just for one “hackathon.” Imagine the possibilities of bringing the entire City together to fix the problems that City Hall cannot – or cannot do in less time than the 1,825 days it will take them to play catch-up with today’s technology.

The City isn’t necessarily getting slower. But the world is getting faster while “the city family” sits still.

Tick-tock, City, get moving.