Registration season for spring/summer recreation programming is coming up in Toronto and parents and recreation program users will be happy to know the city has made significant improvements to its much-maligned customer experience.
Registration for spring/summer programming starts at 7 a.m. on the following days:
• Saturday, March 4 — Etobicoke York district
• Sunday, March 5 — Scarborough district
• Tuesday, March 7 — North York district
• Wednesday, March 8 — Toronto and East York district
The most popular programs will fill up within minutes.
The city has improved its online system dramatically by increasing server capacity, which allows more people to use the system simultaneously. This will reduce the wait times people have experienced in the past.
Plus, officials have improved the user interface to make searching for programs easier and registering simpler.
“We’ve been working over the last year to improve the overall experience that customers have,” said Howie Dayton, director of community recreation at the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department.
Besides an improved online system, the city will have more staff at its call centres with longer call centre hours for customers to register by phone on registration days.
The city has already seen positive results from the improvements it has put in place.
During the December sign-up period, 26 per cent more registrations were completed in the first hour than the previous year, Dayton said.
But, it’s still important that anyone planning to register for programming plans ahead of registration day.
Dayton recommends people use the Get Ready to Register planning tools that are available at www.toronto.ca/funguide.
This Family Day Monday, Feb. 20, the city will host Get Read to Register information centres in each district. Visit the website for locations and times. Additionally, the city will extend its call centre hours on March 1, 2, 3 and 6, running from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for people to ask questions. Call 416-338-4FUN.
The online system includes a search tool that allows people to seek out the program they want, and where they want to take it, and mark favourites for programs they will try to register for on registration day.
People should have their family and personal accounts ready before registration day.
People should also have backup options as well in case their preferred programs fill up. You can also put yourself on a wait list for a program in case some participants pull out or if the city opens up additional spaces.
Typically, people registering for programs are in the system right at 7 a.m.
Summer camps and children’s learn-to-swim programs are most sought after and fill up quickly. This summer, the city plans to offer 84,500 summer camp spaces, 66,000 learn-to-swim spaces and 30,000 general program spaces in arts, sports and fitness for all ages. This doesn’t include things such as summer leisure drop-in programs happening at pools, community centres or gymnasiums across the city.
The city of Toronto prides itself on its quality programming that is affordable and inclusive. As an example, children’s summer camps could range from $40 to $150 per week. There are a number of community centres across the city where all programming is free, including registered and drop-in programs. For families who can’t afford paid programming, the city’s Welcome Policy can provide financial assistance. For details, visit www.toronto.ca/wp.
In 2015, the city provided 622,000 hours of instructional programs, and Toronto sees an 81 per cent usage rate for those programs.
While the usage rate is high, not all programs are filled and Dayton suggests people try them out.
“The City of Toronto invests in quality of life. Recreation is essential to healthy and active living, social development for persons of all ages, whether its children, youth, adults and older adults,” he said.
One Toronto dad, Phil Vlach, is glad the city made recent improvements.
The father of two remembers the days when he and his wife would circle programs in the city’s FUN Guide book, cross things out, make more circles, and then struggle to register their children on registration day. It was such an awful experience, he built a mobile app for iOS devices that helped users find programs and fill out certain fields for them. It was a lot of work to build the app, but he was happy to help other parents.
“(The city has) come a long way and I’m glad they have. My goal with all this was, quite honestly, to help my family out and my circle of friends, and if other people benefited, fantastic,” Vlach said.
He said his app won’t be available for March registration.
The city plans to continue improving the current online system and to roll out a new technology in 2018 that will make the user experience event better.
For more information, visit www.toronto.ca/torontofun.