Mayor Tory’s remarks regarding Parks and Recreation Registration Process – March 8, 2016
It’s great to be here at the beautiful Regent Park Aquatic Centre, joined by Councillor Pasternak, Councillor McConnell and Janie Romoff, the General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation.
Every year, our City operates more than 1-million hours of recreation programming in neighbourhoods across Toronto.
These programs range from soccer and swimming to summer camps and skating lessons, programs for seniors, newcomers and other important members of our communities.
And each year, we process more than 600,000 registrations for 80,000 courses across Toronto.
These programs are offered at Toronto’s 135 community recreation centres, 40 indoor arenas, 56 outdoor pools and 65 indoor pools, including this one.
Toronto’s recreation programs are among the busiest in North America and as Councillor Pasternak noted, we pride ourselves on providing high-quality classes, lessons and activities to hundreds of thousands of youth, seniors and families every year.
But the technology used to register for these programs has not kept up with the times.
I have heard over and over again how frustrating it is for parents trying to register their children in Toronto’s highly sought-after programs.
And for those trying to enroll themselves and their family members in classes and activities.
To make sure these programs are accessible to all, we provide registration options by phone and in person for those who require face-to-face service, and for those who do not have access to technology or who struggle with signing up on line.
But 80 per cent of registration for rec programming occurs on line, and we need to make that system much, much better.
Today, we can go on line to book a flight or a dinner reservation, and see the full range of options.
If the flight we want isn’t available, most websites will offer different dates or times.
These point-of-sale transactions are helpful, convenient and efficient, and this is the type of service that the public expects and deserves.
Over the past few years, the City has made efforts to improve the registration process.
We have increased on line access, with more than 2,000 online registration sessions added since 2009.
The time it takes to complete 20,000 registrations has dropped from three hours in 2009 to just over 30 minutes in 2014 because we have increased the capacity of the system.
Today, up to 5,600 clients can use the system at one time, a 55% increase since 2013.
And, last year, we finally implemented email receipting, which saved the city more than $300,000 while also providing a better customer experience for our residents.
But those on going efforts are not enough.
The system still in use today is not up to date relative to available technology.
We are serious about making significant improvements to this system, and so I am pleased to announce that we have begun to take the necessary actions to replace the current system.
Our goal is to reduce people’s frustration with this process and modernize our practices so that this important programming can be offered smoothly and efficiently.
This modernization will also ensure that our staff resources and time are being used effectively.
I want to see a registration system that offers automated bumping to the next available program.
If the nine o’clock program is full, you are automatically directed to the ten o’clock offering.
It should allow for geographic search capacity so you can find available programs in your community.
And there should be automated wait list management, a process that is now handled manually by our city staff (if you can believe it).
This registration process should be mobile friendly and work across platforms and offer better interface with maps and the City’s Fun Guide.
Some of these changes will take time to introduce, but users will begin to see improvements to their experience by the fall registration period this September.
To do that, Parks, Forestry and Recreation has hired a project director, Brenda Fideles.
Brenda brings a wealth of experience in customer service and retail technology to this project and who will be a valuable member of the city’s team.
Brenda and Janie have also appointed a recreation technology advisory group with impressive experience in technology, e-commerce, design and user experience.
This technology advisory group will be co-chaired by Janie Romoff and Rob Miekle, the City’s Chief Information Officer.
I will be participating in these meetings as well, to keep the process moving forward and to show my determination to see this basic aspect of service to our citizens modernized.
Our tech advisory panel was identified through the working group on innovation that I held in February at Shopify, and I’m pleased to introduce its members today.
- Alex Norman is the managing director of TechTO, and a passionate advocate for innovation in Toronto, with experience as a start up founder and advisor.
- Paula Kwan is the head of global expansion at Pivotal Labs, which helps companies around the world take an agile approach to software development
- Jeremy Bell will also be a member of this panel, but was unfortunately unable to join us today. Jeremy is a design and user experience expert with an impressive background in product design.
I’m so happy to have these people on board, because I want talented people across Toronto to use their expertise to help address our city’s challenges.
I look forward to their practical advice on how we can improve this system for our residents and our hard working staff.
Both Alex and Jeremy are also parents of young children, so I think they are very motivated to be a part of this process.
This group will work with our team to identify improvements that can be made to the registration system over the next few months.
And they will also inform the process of replacing the system to make sure we get the best service for our residents over the long-term.
This work will be done concurrently and this two-stage fix up was initiated by me in response to the many comments I have received from residents across Toronto and, as I indicated, I intend to stay personally involved throughout.
In addition to this panel, Janie, Brenda and their team will also be actively engaging with the public to get feedback and ideas on how the system can be improved in the short- and long-term.
I want the public to tell us how this system can work better for them.
So I invite members of the public to share their ideas and feedback about the registration process on line at toronto.ca/haveyoursay
We will also be holding public consultations so that families can tell us how they think the registration process can be improved.
Bottom line: an entirely new system will be in place by the end of 2017, but we will not be waiting to make improvements – that work begins now.
The best minds inside and outside City Hall will be helping us and I’m confident that progress will be made quickly.
Before I conclude I also want to talk to parents who continue to register for the city’s spring and summer programming.
I know that people wake up early on registration day, and start hitting refresh on their computers at 7 am – this will begin in North York and downtown regions of the city tomorrow.
Between 7 and 8 am, as many as 130,000 people have already registered for programs, almost 45% of the total registrations processed.
Over the weekend, we processed almost 105,000 registrations in Etobicoke and Scarborough alone.
To put that in context, if we were selling concert tickets, that’s enough registrations to sell out the ACC five nights in a row.
But I want people to know that only 30 per cent of our total programs are actually full after the first hour of registrations so don’t give up and think there are no available classes.
Have your family client number ready: explore program offerings at different venues and at different times of day so you can move quickly to alternatives if your first choice is not available.
These recreation programs are a great part of our city, and Janie and I and the team we introduced here today will work together to make sure that the registration process catches up with the quality of services we provide.