An FOI reveals Vancouver's 311 service is a big hit with its citizens
We've been writing extensively on this blog about why Vancouver's new 311 service has yet to be "officially" launched. 311 is a new service which allows Vancouver citizens and businesses to access City Hall 24 hours a day in dozens of different languages. It was the brainchild of previous City Manager Judy Rogers, but since her sudden departure, plans to promote it appear to have been shelved. If you recall, the Vision/COPE politicians elected to the previous council voted against setting aside the funds necessary to implement 311.
That's why we put in a FOI request at City Hall to see whether 311 was actually being used, despite the lack of promotion and official ribbon cutting. With details from our FOI now in-hand, we can provide you with an exclusive glimpse into the "mysterious" 311 operations that nobody on Council seems eager to talk about. Here are the highlights:
- In February 2009, only 6,703 people used the 311 service. By October 2009, that number had increased to over 35,000 callers.
- The average speed of answering calls went from 15 seconds in February '09 to 3 minutes in November '09.
- In November '09 the largest number of calls (11,083) were described as miscellaneous. The second biggest category fell into the area of "Engineering - Solid Waste".
- Clocking in at only 12 queries, the Community Services Group - Social Development received the lowest number of queries last November. These are the folks that deal with the City's housing and homelessness policy.
Based on the lukewarm response to 311 from Vancouver Council, you'd think that almost nobody is interested in the services it provides. However, looking at the numbers of people calling in and emailing 311, nothing could be further from the truth.
Over a quarter of a million people called 311 between the period of February and November 2009. In the period covering July - Nov '09, there were an average of almost 36,000 queries per month. If that were to be extrapolated into next year, the 311 centre would receive an astonishing 432,000+ calls over the year. Not bad for a service that's had no profile, a lack of political support and been left to wither on the vine.
With the Olympic Games now behind us and the Paralympics wrapping up in about a week or so, let's hope that Vancouver Council can find some way of promoting 311 as a way Vancouver citizens can better access their city hall. Unfortunately, it's been months since the "soft" launch of the service, and it would appear an "official" launch is nowhere on the horizon.