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Vancouver 311 service popular but costly

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WATCH: Vancouver's 311 info service has proven to be a huge hit - so huge that the costs are skyrocketing. Ted Chernecki looks at a possible solution – Feb 9, 2016

The City of Vancouver says its 311 information line handled close to 1.4 million enquiries last year and that responding to those questions didn’t come cheaply.

On average, each call costs the city about $5.50, and unfortunately, many of those questions can be answered with six simple words: let me Google that for you.

The most-asked question last year revolved around the city’s pay-by-phone parking app, which was the subject of more than 73,000 calls. At more than $5 a call, that’s about $400,000 just to answer parking-related questions.

Other popular queries included:

-Transfer to City of Vancouver staff (56,080 calls)
-Bylaw online payment (38,832 calls)
-Missed garbage collections (37,812 calls)
-Parking enforcement (37,336 calls)

The 311 service has been so busy, Vancouver City Council is now encouraging citizens to look up simple queries online before calling by phone.

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Councillor George Affleck calls the information line a “great success.”

“It’s really the best way to access City Hall,” he said.

Seven years ago, when the 311 call centre first set up shop under the Cambie Street Bridge, it had only about a dozen employees. Today, they have more than 100.

– With files from Ted Chernecki

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