Boston Code 2019

The Question: 

How might we spark behavior change in Boston residents resulting in more tickets paid and fewer violations committed?

The Team: 

  • Clare Herceg

  • Naeha Rashid

  • Ariana Soto

  • Elyse Voegeli

  • Clarisa Yerovi

The Story: 


Have you ever stepped into a pile of icy slush on a Boston city sidewalk and almost slipped? Boston Code Enforcement, a division of the Department of Public Works, works hard to keep Boston streets safe, clean, and accessible for all residents. Code Enforcement officers patrol streets by car and foot, ensuring that residents shovel their sidewalks and properly dispose of their trash. When officers see dangerous sidewalks or unsanitary conditions, they issue tickets in green envelopes to non-compliant residents. Unfortunately, nearly half of code enforcement violation tickets go unpaid, and many residents don’t understand what constitutes a violation. That’s where our team came in. 

We first had to understand the ticketing and payment process from the perspectives of officers and residents. We accompanied officers in patrol cars and spoke with residents on street corners, restaurants, malls, and T stations. We wanted to learn whether residents had received code enforcement tickets and what values, motivations, and experiences prompted them to pay or to ignore fines. From speaking with over 160 Boston residents, we identified five motivators and constraints that influenced their behaviors including trust in ticket, trust in government, knowledge of violation, care for violation, and financial constraints. 

We realized that many Boston residents were willing to pay tickets, but were getting stuck in the process. After brainstorming over 50 solutions, our team decided to focus on redesigning the envelope and ticket. We sought to to do in a way that helped residents understand what they did wrong, to help them avoid those behaviors in the future, and to make the payment and appeals process clear. We also redesigned all other points of contact related to the ticketing process, including redesigns of the envelope, ticket, letter, and website landing page, and the creation of seasonal inserts that showed residents’ responsibilities and how code violations impacted their neighbors. Our partners at the City of Boston are excited to pilot these recommendations that further their goal of keeping Boston safe and clean.