Vision’s worst kept secret is 311

The numbers don't lie – 311 is increasingly popular with Vancouverites

We know that Vision Vancouver doesn’t like transparency, but does it explain why they’re keeping Vancouver’s 311 service a secret?

During the last term of Vancouver council, the previous NPA government was scolded by the opposition Vision/COPE politicians for establishing a new 311 service. If you’re not familiar with 311, it’s a 24/7 non-emergency line that helps connect you with city services whenever you need them. You can apply for permits, get updates on a query and report issues to the city such as clogged drains or a downed tree. Vancouver is currently the only city in the Metro region to have such a service.

We’ve written extensively about 311 here on over the last 18 months. In fact, we’re the only people talking about this popular service which seems to be gaining favour with Vancouverites. Our past FOIs on 311 have helped to detail for our readers how many people have been using the service and which departments are getting the most call volume. In August ’10, 311 fielded over 47,000 calls on a variety of topics. Call volume was as high as 53,721 in June.

So why has Vision Vancouver not embraced 311? Why have they chosen to keep this service under wraps while so many other cities like New York, Calgary and Winnipeg have embraced it? Could it be that a bit of partisan politics is at play? After all, 311 is a legacy project of former Mayor Sam Sullivan and we all know that Mayor Gregor and his caucus don’t have Sam on their Christmas card list.

Perhaps in these days of tight budgets the City simply doesn’t have the funds to promote 311? Really? Since they’ve taken power, Vision had no problem spending $250,000 on a communications plan for the Burrard Bridge bike lane trial. How about the $200,000 for the Hornby Bike lane communications plan? Our FOIs also revealed Vision recently spent $1000 per day on PR consultants and $60K on two untendered contracts for communication advice regarding the Olympic Village. So clearly the fact they have yet to officially launch or heavily promote the 311 service has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of funds.

It’s a shame that politics and the public service at Vancouver City Hall have become so highly partisan. As a result, a multi-lingual service aimed at connecting people from all walks of life to their city hall barely rates a mention from Hizzoner. The only evidence that we could find of Gregor ever mentioning 311 was in a tweet he sent out to a constituent. Now compare that to New York where you see the numbers 3-1-1 plastered all over the city, including most of their taxi fleet.

Here are some of the latest stats coming out of our most recent FOI regarding Vancouver’s 311 program. It’s more evidence that this service is catching on despite Vision’s unwillingness to promote it.

- post by Daniel

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