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The phone system that will change your life about to start up: 311

June 13th, 2009 · 7 Comments

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Vancouver’s 311 system is supposed to be up and running as of Monday, June 15.

That’s the new system that allows you to access all of city all just by dialing 311, where trained operators will be standing by to send you on to the right department and your call will become part of a vast database intended to track 1. Whether your problem got solved 2. Who solved it and 3. How many other people have your problem.

As you’ll recall, it was a subject of much controversy back when the NPA was in charge because it was seen as a pet project that was going to cost the city a bundle of money. Whatever. It’s here now and the bills are marginally smaller than originally project: only $10.7 million to get it going, instead of $12.3; and only $5.1 million a year instead of $5.6.

It’s popular with some people already though. Apparently about 4,500 people applied for the couple dozen jobs at the centre.

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  • david m.

    montreal’s service works really well, but i question how necessary it is – could the city hall receptionists not have been retrained?

  • jimmy olson

    … watch for various tax grabs to pay for this.

  • gmgw

    While it’s nice of the City to thoughtfully spend nearly eleven million bucks so I can get directed to the right voicemail box next time I phone Engineering (are City engineers *ever* actually at their desks??), I’ve never really had much of a problem finding them for myself. How many ways are there to say “ridiculously expensive redundancy”? Hmm, maybe someone at 311 can help me find out…

  • The 311 system has been in place in NYC for years now and is universally praised.

    It saved money and time and made City Hall more responsive to citizens and more efficient.

    Here in Vancouver, anyone who has tried to get a city inspector to address a neighbourhood problem knows how frustrating it is to wade through the myriad departments, job titles and individuals before locating the right person capable of helping.

    311 will make our city government more open, accessible and staff more responsive. What’s not to like?

  • rebecca

    I have called the City and the people answering the phones have no clue about much. I think 311 is a great thing for us and people shouldn’t knock something that they don’t know much about.

  • I called Vancouver’s 311 today because, after being in my position for over 17 years and knowing the Hall like the back of my hand, I did not know who to call to ask for clarification regarding a specific by-law. My search of the City’s web site proved futile.

    My call to 311 was answered on the second ring. The attendant seemed challenged by my inquiry and put me on hold. After waiting for a few minutes and listening to a pleasant version of elevator music, the attendant transfered me to the appropriate person. Truth be told, I got voice mail.

    But kudos to the customer friendly 311 attendant for finding the person that I need to talk to and making the experience a very positive one.

  • Marc

    I’ve been on hold for 20 minutes now trying to get through to the city. Before I used to just find the right number and call directly.

    So 311 is supposed to an improvement?