It was a familiar scene for many Pittsburgh area contractors and engineering consultants. Print out a paper application. Fill in the project information. Drive to 1200 Penn Avenue. Wait in line to speak to an employee. Write out a check. Receive a permit.
Before the pandemic closed our offices to the public, heading to our permit counter in person was the only option for customers. Permitting evolved into email applications when in person was no longer an option, but our staff was still processing permits manually and payment options were limited. We knew we could do better.
On November 1st, we launched the public portal for five of our most common processes, including dye test certifications, hydrant flow tests, hydrant meters, tap terminations, and residential tap permits. Over the past several months, a cross-departmental team from Customer Service, Engineering, Public Affairs, and Operations developed the online permitting solution. The portal has streamlined the application process so customers can apply from home. Payment methods now include credit cards.
The team selected CityGrows as the software provider with several priorities in mind:
- Cost-effective solution
- Limited staff time required to develop the product
- Ease-of-use for our customers
The product was under budget and ready for launch within eight months. With over-the-counter permits as the first phase priority, a second phase will be launching in early 2022 to include the remaining processes, such as development permits and waterline shut permits.
“Enhanced customer service, shorter processing times, and greater convenience are all possible through the technology improvements underway at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority,” said Chief Executive Officer Will Pickering. “Providing our residential and commercial customers with the new permitting portal is an example of how we’re proactively improving the PWSA customer experience.”
In preparation for online permitting, our team has modernized the customer experience through increased staffing, standardized regulations, simplified applications, updated permit checklists, tracking inspections, and opening lines of communication.
How It Works
To start an application, customers select a permit. On-screen instructions then guide applicants through the required submittals after creating an account or signing in to an existing account. Automated emails provide status updates and alert the customer when an application requires action. The 24/7 dashboard allows users to view and download issued permits quickly. Each permit application offers the opportunity to chat with staff if questions arise throughout the process.
You can access the portal from our website at