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Revisiting the abandoned trash in the alleys

February 19, 2016


Greetings again from Vancouver, B.C., the municipality that may or may not have a big sign somewhere on the outskirts advising people to “Abandon garbage all ye who enter here”.

My last post detailing the growing blight of mattresses and other trash left to rot in Vancouver’s back alleys may have left one or two erroneous impressions that I should like to clear up.

firstly, the City of Vancouver’s VanConnect app certainly can be used to report abandoned waste. My confusion with the Android version of the app was cleared by seeing the interface of the iOS version.

And secondly, it’s not true that absolutely everyone in the city is dumping their unwanted mattresses and furnishings in the alleys. I found two residents who aren’t.

One landlord bound and determined to do the right thing

Two mattresses "bound" for the South Vancouver transfer station.

Two mattresses “bound” for the South Vancouver transfer station.

On Tuesday (February 16) I found the owner of one of Fairview’s old three-storey walk-up apartment buildings, along with a trusty helper, lashing two mattresses to the roof of an SUV.

Yes, the owner replied, when I asked him. He was taking the mattresses all the way to the South Vancouver transfer station. And he was also going to pay the $15 recycling fee for each of them. He may not have liked the fee but he didn’t dislike it half as much as the sight of abandoned mattresses in the alley behind his building.

He was rather sanguine about the whole thing—about having to haul the mattresses and pay the recycling fee—perhaps as a result of long experience. He even shrugged at the tendency of some tenants to try and foist their problem garbage off on him when they moved. His attitude seemed to be that sometimes you simply had to do what you had to do—that hauling away the occasional mattress was just one of the things that went with being a landlord.

A second look at the city’s VanConnect app

I found the iOS version of VanConnect clearer and easier to figure out.

I found the iOS version of VanConnect clearer and easier to figure out.

Both the iOS and Android versions of the City of Vancouver’s VanConnect app have the exact same functionality and the same basic layout but I personally found that the styling of the iOS version made navigation easier at a glance than the Android version.

For example, both versions feature a blue bar on the main screen containing the statement: “Submit a new service request”.

In the iOS version the white text in the blue box is equal in size and style to the list of clickable blue-text-on-white options underneath it. The blue box is clearly one of the clickable options.

The blue box on the main screen of the Android VanConnect looks like a heading, rather than a button.

The tiny blue box on the main screen of the Android VanConnect looks like a heading not a button.

In the Android version, however, the blue bar is a small centered element above the larger flush left list of clickable options. At first glance, I simply ignored it.

To begin the process of reporting a problem to the city, in either version of the VanConnect app, you press the blue bar.

This brings up the “Select an issue” screen, which gives you seven issues to choose from: “Abandoned vehicle”, “Animals”, “Garbage and Litter”, “Graffiti”, “Streets and Sidewalks”, “Street Lights, Signals and Signs” and “Trees and Vegetation”.

Choosing “Garbage and Litter” brings up a screen of seven sub-categories: “Mattress/Box Spring”, “Appliance”, “Electronic Waste”, “Furniture”, “Garbage/Miscellaneous Junk”, “Other Abandoned Garbage” and “Litter Can or Cart Cleanup”.

Choosing a sub-category (say, “Mattress/Box Spring”) brings up a map showing the current location as your device sees it. You can adjust the address shown by retyping it or by moving the map with your finger so that the proper location is underneath the map’s fixed red pin. You cannot leave the address field blank. When you’re done, click the small check mark in the uppermost right corner of the screen.

This takes you to a screen that allows you to take a photo to go with your service request. There is also a conditional “Type of garbage” list to choose from: “Box Spring”, “Mattress” or “Mattress and Box Spring”.

Finally there’s a “Description” field if you have more to say and, when all is said and done, you press the blue “Submit” button to send your completed service request off to the receptive boffins at City Hall.

As Shel would say, It’s just that easy! Click the images to enlarge them.

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