Walking the Talk

Today, the TTC issued a Media Advisory containing a letter for all TTC staff from Chief General Manager Gary Webster.

Our Customers Deserve Better

February 6, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I am becoming increasingly tired of defending the reputation of the TTC; tired of explaining what is acceptable and what is not; and tired of stating the obvious: that much of the behaviour being reported is, indeed, unacceptable.

You have heard me say that I am proud of the TTC. I still am, but I am not proud of what we have been dealing with over the last several weeks.

Two weeks ago I said that the vast majority of TTC employees care about the organization and do a good job, but we can all do better. I asked everyone to respond well. Some of you did. Clearly, some of you did not.

We all have to accept responsibility for allowing the TTC to drift into a culture of unacceptable operating discipline. In other words, we have deemed it acceptable for some employees to not do all aspects of their jobs.

We have two choices. We can continue to react to issues, deal with individual employee problems, and hope that the rest of our employees get the message, behave themselves and not get caught doing something they should not be doing.

The other choice, and the one we are going to take, is a much broader approach. Expectations need to be clear, especially for frontline employees. And employees need to be held accountable for their poor performance.

We are in the customer service business, but some of the behaviour our customers have encountered recently would suggest otherwise. Our customers pay a fare and the City provides hundreds of millions of dollars every year to the TTC. This public transit agency belongs to the very people we serve.

As Chief General Manager, I am ultimately accountable to our customers. As employees, you – and you alone – are accountable for your actions. The culture of complacency and malaise that has seeped into our organization will end. I hold all of management responsible to make this happen. Reviews and plans are under way to address systemic issues regarding customer service, but real change starts with you.

Gary Webster

Chief General Manager

On the same day, Joe Clark, who writes about many issues including transit, but from a design, signage and accessability perspective, was on a Queen car where the operator clearly was wearing earphones.  When Joe challenged him, the situation escalated including calls for assistance to Transit Control, and officious behaviour from a TTC Supervisor.  Both TTC staffers persisted in claiming that photography on the TTC is illegal (it isn’t, and there is a specific section both in the bylaw and on the TTC website on this subject).

TTC staff may feel under siege from the hordes of camera-bearing riders, but I have absolutely no sympathy.  If they are doing their jobs properly, there will be nothing to photograph.

Joe Clark can be a pain in the butt, but his valid messages are too often ignored by the TTC.  (Even I have been the target of his less than decorous comments.  Some folks consider a mention on his site as almost a badge of honour.)  His frequent letters and deputations to the monthly meetings are almost always “received” (thanks, now bugger off), and hardly anyone at the meeting table pays any attention while he speaks.  That is precisely the sort of treatment that sends guerilla photographers out into the streets looking for the most embarrassing shot they can find.

Good manners start at the very top, even when the customers or deputants at TTC meetings have messages you don’t want to hear.

40 thoughts on “Walking the Talk

  1. Steve, I’ve heard rumors that Employees are so upset at this customer service campaign that they are talking about a wildcat strike. I’m wondering what you’ve heard about this. I for one have no extra cash to take a cab, and work over 10km from where I live. I have no options if they decide to go on strike.

    Steve: I have not heard of this, but also have not been out “on the street” to pick up the chatter very much. If ATU were to do this, it would be a public relations disaster for the union, and would virtually guarantee restrictive legislation, not to mention completely throwing the election into the right wing’s hands.

    They should remember when all those good union folks voted for Mike Harris to get rid of Bob Rae.


  2. Several years ago I worked on contract for a firm that treated their employees very well. I, although on contract, was treated better than full-time employees are treated at some other firms I have worked at, and rightly enough the full-time employees were treated even better than I was. I believe that the firm paid slightly above the average wage for the various positions, but were in the normal range. The company had a very low employee turnover even though customer relations – including complaints, collections and telemarketing – was a major part of their business, and they were successful, celebrating with a party for all employees when they first did a billion dollars business in a year.

    Why this obviously off-topic post? Because of what they told their employees. While they did, of course, have courses in customer relations, the management said that it could be boiled down to one sentence: “Treat the customer the way we treat you.”

    As Andrew said in another thread: “It is a natural human urge to retaliate in some manner when we are mistreated.” While he was talking about drivers retaliating against riders for other riders’ actions, it seems to me that there is a longstanding conflict between the drivers and management, and I think it is likely that at least some of the bad customer relations may be a ‘paying forward’ of perceived mistreatment.

    Obviously the TTC will not be able to change overnight, but I hope that Mr. Webster will work on the relationships all the way down the chain, and not focus solely on the front-line workers. I feel sure that if the workers feel they are being treated well (and fairly) by management they will be better able to put up with the bad apples in the public.

    Steve: Something that shows up from time to time are various TTC blitzes on things like fare evasion. The message from the top is “the public is screwing us, and we need every penny you can get”. Operators know that their behaviour is being checked by “secret shoppers” and that they may be disciplined if they don’t pick up the passengers and shake all their change into the farebox. Some operators get into confrontations that can easily escalate depending on the parties involved. Meanwhile, the TTC will tell anyone who asks that they have a very low fare evasion rate.


  3. “TTC staff may feel under siege from the hordes of camera-bearing riders, but I have absolutely no sympathy. If they are doing their jobs properly, there will be nothing to photograph.”

    This is true, but, I think, only to a point. In the past — that is, pre-TTC sleeper — I have witnessed riders confronting operators over perceived infractions that existed only in the riders’ minds. Now everyone and their uncle considers themselves deputized to enforce discipline in real-time by not only recording those supposed misdeeds but also by causing a self-righteous scene on the spot rather than getting the operator’s badge number and reporting it to the TTC. Of course, the reason why is obvious as experience has shown that little comes of a polite complaint made through formal channels; still, I think it is equally obvious why in this tense period an operator who feels he is in the right (and I am not speaking of the operator in the incident with Joe, but rather of the hypothetical operator who has “nothing to hide”) would want the record set straight right away rather than waiting for the video to hit YouTube and the presumption of guilt to be in full effect.


  4. As someone who also has to deal with the public, I learned a long time ago that the best way to deal with a pain in the butt is to treat them exactly the same as the people who are sweetness and light – If they are in the right, then fix their problem. If they’re in the wrong, then still do your best to try to help them, but that might just be showing them the policy. There is no excuse for abusing a person just because they’re rubbing you up the wrong way.


  5. Wow.

    When I read the first line of Gary Webster’s memo, I didn’t believe it was the official thing. And then I found it on a few more sites, all identical.

    That is by far the most blunt memo I have seen. And from what I have been hearing, quite justified as well.


  6. We definitely need you on Twitter, Steve. A cool head amongst the insanity. This is turning, it seems, into a cyclical battle – riders take on operators, operators get angry, take it out on riders, riders get angry, take it out on operators, operators get angry again, and so on…

    It’s impressive that people are taking on the problems they see, and I’m glad *some* attention has been brought to some obvious problems – it’s obviously got the TTC to pay attention to what in some cases appear to be long-term issues. But I fear that this can only get worse if the cycle doesn’t stop. There needs to be a mechanism in place to allow riders to file complaints to the TTC and actually see that their complaint is heard, solved, and the problem not repeated. If we had this, and it worked properly (there is, admittedly, a complaints process, though its effectiveness is questionable), people wouldn’t have to resort to YouTube/Twitter, and these embarrassing spectacles could be avoided. Likewise, if operators had clear direction on what is and is not acceptable behaviour, and clear consequences for unacceptable behaviour, as well as some sort of assurance that health/safety concerns (sufficient washroom breaks, protection from rider assault, follow-through on charges when assault occurs, etc) are prioritized, they might not be as willing to treat riders disrespectfully.

    This memo from Gary Webster is a step in the right direction. I think we as riders need to do our part and treat operators with the respect they deserve as human beings. We also need to stop assuming that problems with individual operators are systemic, and start reporting incidences that occur to the proper channels at the TTC, regardless of frequency, and give management the message that we expect a problem-free ride and will tell them if it’s not — if management is doing its job (which I understand it usually does), and we give them the information they need (bus #, location, time of day, etc), we’ll end up with hopefully similar results (employees disciplined appropriately) without the circus this has become.

    Steve: I am not on Twitter so that I can actually retain some free time in my days and evenings. This site, Facebook and a few other blogs I regularly visit keep me quite busy enough.


  7. Methinks TTC/Public relations has not yet reached an all-time low. A confrontation is still possible, sullying the reputations of many good people. Still, it does seem that management has all but abandoned drivers and riders alike with their dismissive attitudes at monthly meetings. I wonder how they behave during Union negotiations.

    It, of course, is not limited to Toronto. When Pierre Lebrun went on a shooting rampage at the St. Laurent facility of OC Transpo (Ottawa’s combination of Hillcrest and Davisville Headquarters), killing 4 employees, he was actually gunning for management, but killed random people instead. The inquest that was held made many recommendations for greater safety at the facility — for management! To this day, anybody can, and does, walk onto the sprawling complex. Drivers, and passengers, still feel like second class citizens in this town.


  8. What is the exact section/paragraph of the ttc by-law that says that photographing on the ttc is not illegal? (just curious).

    Even if the by-law would prohibit, it is easy by-passed by many legal ways.

    Steve: This appears in two places.

    In Bylaw Number 1, section 3.17 states:

    3.17 No person shall operate any camera, video recording device, movie camera or any similar device for commercial purposes upon the transit system without authorization.

    Note the term “commercial purposes”. Elsewhere on the site, there are two pages dealing with filming on the TTC. The page I have linked contains the following:

    Tourists, families and individuals filming or photographing within the public areas of the transit system for non-commercial purposes, are not expected to contact the TTC to obtain permission or a permit so long as such filming/photographing does not interfere with the safe and orderly operation of the transit system and/or our customers.

    I highly recommend that people print this page from the TTC’s website and prepare to hand out many copies whenever they are challenged.


  9. Now, Steve, we’re close personal friends by now. Was there a rough patch? Who has that kind of memory at our age?

    I actually only rarely write to the Commission meetings. It’s quite a bother and I do it only to put unresolved issues on the record. I think the last correspondence I sent, in which I made the case that system failures in stop announcements put the TTC in noncompliance, will have woken them up a bit. Enough people are certainly investigating it.

    The surprising fact about my experience with the hair-trigger driver is that I wasn’t being a total dick about it. I was being only a partial dick. But I’m not the one who stopped the streetcar (hence the line), called in the cavalry, and ended up with a reprimand for violating policy. I just got a good war story.


  10. …so long as such filming/photographing does not interfere with the safe and orderly operation of the transit system and/or our customers.

    Ok, well, playing Devil’s Advocate for a moment: some of these gotcha! videographers have clearly “interfere[d] with the… orderly operation of the transit system” to some extent (e.g. by taking one frustrating delay such as an unauthorized break mid-run and turning it into a confrontation with the operator), but at least in Joe’s situation, there’s a case to be made that the operation that was “interfere[d] with” wasn’t “safe” in the first place, what with operator wearing headphones.


  11. Am I the only one who finds the phrase “not get caught doing something they should not be doing” a little odd.

    Is the implication that if they do something, they shouldn’t get caught by the public? What’s he telling them to do … go take a snooze in the back room instead of the booth?


  12. You think I can behave like that as a teacher? Everything I say, right, wrong or entirely misinterpreted goes home to parents, a significant number of whom will trust the interpretation of their under-parented pre-teen to common sense. I don’t have a camera in my room, but I’d welcome one! It’d do far more to protect me than put me in jeopardy. As I told my principal, who apologized from coming in on an errand unannounced, “If you can’t come in unannounced, I’d be doing something that I shouldn’t be here to do”.

    Put a camera in every vehicle. TTC operators, like teachers, should have nothing to hide while on the job. It also protects both from slander, and knowledge of video on the vehicles would deter a lot of assaults on staff and passengers.

    Steve: All vehicles already have cameras, but the recordings are only available to the police in case something actually happens. A “Big Brother” implementation with armies of TTC staff reviewing recordings (yet another way to waste money) is precisely what the TTC does not need.


  13. I do hope the efforts to whip some operators into shape doesn’t become demoralizing and frustrating to those who are already doing a good job. Some of the younger operators in particular seem to handle the customer service side of the job quite well, and it’s not clear to me the TTC is good at recognizing and rewarding them. Indeed, sometimes the organization seems to (perhaps inadvertently) thwart their fine efforts.

    What is the TTC’s discipline policy for things like cell phone use while driving? Unlike snoozing collectors, an operator wearing headphones or using a mobile device while driving has wilfully put their own convenience ahead of the safety of their passengers, not to mention violating the Highway Traffic Act. It would be, in any rational organization, grounds for termination. Not every “bad apple” at the TTC will be stupid enough to get caught in this way, but it’d be wise to take the chance to clean out those who do. Otherwise, such an operator is almost certain to remain “part of the problem”, not “part of the solution”.


  14. I’m an operator and, yes, while there are bad apples, how about people take their videos of the good ones — helping strollers, buggies, and other little things we do to assist people. Those are never shown.

    How about the fact that I leave 3 minutes late to connect with a late bus so people don’t have to wait half an hour for the next vehicle? The 3 people it helps know it. That doesn’t come out. I got dirty looks at McDonald’s yesterday off duty but in uniform. I’m proud of what I do and when I stop for 2 minutes at Mac’s milk in the beach to grab a drink, I do so with no regrets.


  15. “If they are doing their jobs properly, there will be nothing to photograph.”

    I think it’s a matter “I don’t want anyone taking photographs, period. Regardless of what has happened in the pass few weeks”

    I work in an industry where photographs are taken all the time and I will go out of my way to avoid a picture, even if that means telling a guest to remove myself.

    The other day I was riding on the King St. Streetcar and people started boarding the back of the bus. The driver repeat over and over again that boarding through the back of the bus is not permitted. If customer’s don’t do as they are told, wouldn’t you, as a driver, be a little peeved?

    Steve: Yup, I certainly would, but don’t see how this has anything to do with the public taking photos. This may also be a stop where quite commonly the TTC provides a ground crew to handle rear door loading, but nobody was available that day. Regular riders want to get on the car rather than watch as it leaves with the back half still empty.

    If the TTC every got off its butt and implemented POP (proof of purchase) on more routes, this wouldn’t be an issue. They will have to make this change for the new streetcars in at most two years’ time, and they should start today.


  16. I think what gets most people about the breaks-in-service are that they are unexplained! The driver disembarks (and on a streetcar route this often happens to change a manual switch) and then proceeds to head into a store without a word to passengers – who are essentially left enclosed in an unattended vehicle.

    The other point to note is that in a positively monitored headway system, an unexplained break would have an instant cascade effect which would be intolerable, as opposed to the tolerated bunching we have now – and is perhaps one reason such systems are not implemented on the surface fleet. How would a surface fleet operator who feels s/he has a right to breaks at will, cope with the signalled underground section of routes like Eglinton LRT?

    Steve: This is part of a much larger issue of the way that TTC crews are organized and work is managed. It’s a difficult problem, but both the TTC and ATU need to figure out a better way to ensure that we can have good service and staff can get breaks at decent intervals. Just adding more and more “recovery time” for terminals is simply not the answer.


  17. Why are people suddenly criticizing the TTC now? Did the sleeping collector decided to sleep just now? Is it a coincidence that all these customer issues appear just as Adam Giambrone was declaring his intention to run for mayor? Let’s follow the trail of who will benefit from this “recent TTC problems”.

    The public should be humble enough to realize that they are not the judge on what TTC employee should do or not do. I am not defending them, but if there is a problem complain through the proper channels. Should I start making videos of people who cannot change a lane properly with their license plate visible? Also, as long as I reach my destination on time, who really cares what the TTC employees do? UPS and Fedex drivers violate many laws a day (from speeding to smoking inside their truck). Do I care what they do as long as my package gets delivered on time? No.

    One thing I noticed about Toronto is that transit employees for the most part are quite helpful. Even in Japan where customer sevice is king, no bus operator will ever help someone lift a stroller on board. They also do not provide directions on where to go. You have to ask your fellow passengers or use Yahoo route planner. Many TTC drivers also smile and greet their passengers which just does not happen in Japan.

    I wonder if introducing something like an Octopus or SUICA card would reduce the friction between passengers and operators. It will eliminate all the fare disputes.


  18. Mark Dowling raises an interesting issue:

    “The driver disembarks (and on a streetcar route this often happens to change a manual switch) and then proceeds to head into a store without a word to passengers – who are essentially left enclosed in an unattended vehicle.”

    Not that I’m encouraging it, but have there ever been any reported incidences of riders stealing or otherwise abusing the rare circumstance of an unattended bus or streetcar? Somehow it seems unlikely to me that anyone would hop behind the wheel of a streetcar and go for a joyride, but given the wide variety of characters in any city this large, it’s also not unfathomable. How can this be avoided when vehicles are left idling?

    Benny also raises an interesting point on the timing of all this. While a pretty minor candidate, Sarah Thomson and her lackeys have been all over this and other transit issues on numerous sites (I’d be willing to bet they’re weighing in heavily (and anonymously, as per their trademark) in favour of “managed competition,” whatever the hell that is, in the SOS campaign referenced in a more recent post here)… Maybe it’s the conspiracy theorist in me but there are a lot of anti-Giambrone, pro-privatization, trolls out there right now willing to say or do anything to get the negative spotlight on him and on our *public* transit system in general. While many of the depicted actions are indefensible, I do suspect some abuse of the issues by those who stand to gain from them.

    Steve: I find it odd that operators don’t want passengers on their cars while they are taking a layover (Queen splits at Parliament and Shaw, also Long Branch Loop), but have no problem leaving them alone with the vehicle. That’s a double standard.

    A very long time ago, a streetcar was stolen from a carhouse (possibly Wychwood) and eventually left in Asquith Loop. Where is that, you ask? Church Street, north of Bloor, west side. The event occured after after the Yonge subway opened (and the Church car stopped running), but before the loop was closed.

    For a lighter view of this sort of thing, try to get hold of Luis Bunuel’s “Illusion Travels By Streetcar” set in Mexico City in the 50s just as the streetcar system was about to be replaced with trolley buses.


  19. Looks like the TTC is on strike, of sorts. The news is reporting a work to rule campaign. Clearly the union and it’s employees are either going to be free to treat us badly, or they wont drive us at all.

    Steve: This depends on which news you listen to. The media has to start taking responsibility for its part in the escalation of rhetoric by both sides. It’s an easy news bite to talk to the most radical, the most pissed off.


  20. It looks like Nick’s news came from a facebook group called “Toronto Transit Operators against public harassment” (real group). Anyone able to join the group and find out if what the media saying is true?

    And “managed competition” sounds something like a franchise system, where the government set up the route, and companies bid to run the route. Sort of how things work in London and Hong Kong.

    If one suspended driver that got onto the news doesn’t deter bad behaviour, I don’t know how Gary is going to maintain accountability for the TTC.

    Steve: There is a lot of steam being blown off on various FB pages. My concern is that there is complete silence from the ATU leadership, and the loudmouths online are dominating the conversation. I am particularly troubled by the stance that people taking photos endangers the operators’ safety and should be banned. What about those operators who endanger riders’ safety by talking on cell phones or listening to iPods? It’s not a black and white situation.


  21. The reasons I don’t want people on my car during my layovers are severalfold:

    1. I want some alone time to clear my head.
    2. I like to eat alone, not in front of strangers.
    3. I want to talk on my phone privately, without others listening.
    4. I don’t want people getting annoyed as to why we’re not moving.

    I don’t get a lunch break and I don’t think some alone time is too much to ask.

    What you’re going to see soon is that we are going to follow the rules to a T. Every transfer will be checked, every fare will be scrutinized, no breaks — $2.75 no ride, that sort of thing, things will slow down and people will get further annoyed.

    You want to hold me to the letter, than I will follow every rule to the letter.

    Steve: The issue of breaks on the Queen car has several alternate viewpoints. Operators were supposed to carry passengers around the loop so that they could connect at Dufferin (west end) or Broadview (east end). This would produce problems in the east where there is nowhere to lay over, but this would easily be fixed by reversing the loop’s direction and laying over southbound on Parliament.

    As for long layovers at Humber and especially at Long Branch, these are a side effect of the way the line is scheduled and the constant request from operations management to make their jobs easier by padding the schedules. If, instead, breaks for operators were scheduled at Ronces, the cars could go to the end of the line and back without needing a big layover. It is management’s job to figure out a way to make the service run properly, but new approaches to breaks can only be implemented with Local 113’s co-operation.


  22. Everyone is picking on the TTC unfairly. I mean I don’t come into your workplace and film you do I? In my opinion the TTC employee who slept at his booth and the bus driver who took a 15 minute coffee and donut break in the middle of his route should not have been punished at all. I mean the evidence was obtained inappropriately. I mean I don’t come into your workplaces and film and photograph every single second of your work time do I? I mean if I did that I’m sure I could find some evidence to get you punished. I mean this is a complete violation of TTC employee privacy. I mean this is completely illegal and ridiculous. I mean you can’t just break the law to get evidence and then prosecute someone based on illegally obtained evidence. That would never hold up in court. So I mean why is the evidence being used here? I mean give the TTC a break and let them go.

    Steve: You are oh so aptly named, but I expect to hear a real Scottish rolled “r” in “McTrollson”.

    It is not illegal to take someone’s picture in a public place, only to use it without their permission for profit. Newspapers take photos of events all the time, and they don’t get releases from everyone in the picture. On the TTC itself, Bylaw No. 1 (as well as a page on the TTC’s website) clearly state that personal photos are ok. The ban is on “commercial use”. This may cover taking a photo with the intent of selling it to the Toronto Sun, but not for a Facebook posting.

    You could not come into most workplaces and film someone because they are in truly private areas where there would also be issues of commercial confidentiality and trespass.

    The operator who took the break at the donut shop was on a night bus, a route with a 30 minute headway. The bus was already 15 minutes late and he delayed it further with his coffee stop. Passengers depend on these buses being on time. There are other similar reports of this type of delay happening (and fouling up travel plans) on a regular basis.

    TTC operators are paid to provide service, and an important part of that service is getting people where they are going on time. If passengers complain about this sort of thing, but don’t provide documentation, the TTC usually ignores them. But, believe me, all it takes is for someone to write down the vehicle number, keep track of the time, and photo or not, make a report.

    Your concept of “privacy” is miles off the mark, and is a red herring in the debate about customer service. Yes, all operators are under watch all the time — by passengers, by pedestrians, by motorists. The job is in the public realm.


  23. The complete silence from ATU leadership has ended with this piece in the Toronto Sun. Perhaps Bob Kinnear has realized the coffers of public sympathy for his union are nearly empty, as he seems to be trying to de-escalate the situation.

    Funniest part of the article is its claim (perhaps based on random Facebook posts) that work-to-rule action would have had operators “enforce standing rules against people taking photos, or urinating or defecating on TTC property”. Big problem is that the first rule doesn’t exist, but who can argue with cracking down on the latter two?

    Steve: The quote in question does not come from Kinnear who, to his credit, takes a very balanced position. It appears as one of the outlandish posts by a TTC staffer who (a) doesn’t know the bylaw and (b) uses the most extreme example of customer behaviour to slag off all riders. There are trolls posting from both sides — the riders and the staff — and the Facebook page has reached the point where it’s not worth trying to keep up with the drivel.

    Here are the quotes from Kinnear in the Sun article:

    “You do not want us working to rule, because the system won’t move,” Kinnear, a bus driver, said in an interview.

    “My big concern is this continues to fester.”

    For all concerned, “let’s begin to work to better the system and get the service we deserve … Hopefully we can rebuilt it,” he said.

    “In no way are we denying we have some of the responsibilities. We aren’t denying that we can’t make improvements. Some of the incidents aren’t acceptable to us.”

    But Kinnear blamed some of the issues frustrating both the public and TTC workers on transit managers and the commission board, which consists of politicians.

    He also blasted chief general manager Gary Webster for his statement over the weekend that appeared to brand all TTC workers as deficient in their work ethic and attitudes.

    “The worst thing for a good union is bad management,” Kinnear said. “If you have strong management and a strong union, you meet in the middle.”


  24. One of the things the TTC could start with on all of it’s surface routes is standardizing the messages that are played for different types of delays:

    Hi, we are sorry to report that this car will be out of operation for the next X minutes due to XXX. This break is authorized by provincial law XXX and ensures that your operator is alert while operating this vehicle. We are sorry for the inconvenience and hope to get you moving shortly. Thanks for riding the Rocket.

    This could be played by the automatic stop announcement system and repeat every few minutes during a stopover, it could also be tracked to ensure that it is not playing for an extended time period. This would also ensure that operators are taking authorized stops (unauthorized stops could be checked for in the log, or would be obvious to passengers based on a recording not being played).

    It would also help customers realize that there are valid reasons for stopovers.

    Likewise there could be explanations of short-turns, signal problems etc. that are automated and standardized.

    Steve: Operators are actually capable of picking up the microphone and making an appropriate announcement, although you wouldn’t have the logs. Somehow, I doubt anyone planning an extended break would worry about announcements.


  25. It isn’t often that I shout at a news report on the CBC, but when I woke up this morning and heard about the retaliatory Facebook group, I sort of lost it. I cannot conceive of anything more idiotic, self-destructive and just plain arrogant as what these loudmouths did. And I just am gobsmacked that they would be so politically inept. Don’t they _know_ that they’re doing their cause all measure of harm? Do they _think_ they are entitled to their jobs or something?

    I’m well aware that the vast majority of TTC workers do their jobs diligently and well. For those rotten apples, they need to be aware that, however difficult it might be to serve certain members of the public, these workers themselves don’t _own_ their bus. The TTC does, and the City of Toronto owns the TTC, which means that ultimately, the property belongs to the taxpayers of Toronto and Ontario. If these individuals had their way and pushed the public as far as they seem to want to push them, what do they expect to gain, seriously? How will they feel if a hard-right council gets elected and sets about contracting out every union job they can get their hands on? Because, ultimately, that will be the outcome of such arrogance. Whether they like it or not, the people are the ultimate boss.

    If these individuals don’t want to serve the public under these circumstances, the only appropriate response is to quit. Walk away, guys. Just walk away.

    James: Much of the thread descended into the trolls on each side slagging off the other, although the moderator is now banning the most unruly. What I find intriguing is the rather insular tone of some posts “from the inside”. They remind me of the attitudes among some TTC management who sit waiting for civilizations from other planets to visit in awe of our wonderful transit system.


  26. Ya know, this thread seems to be quite ironic considering not too long ago my comments on “why don’t workers bring a Thermos” had truly set you off with counterpoints regarding anti-TTC worker bias. I truly have to say that I am happy with your comments regarding these issues that I have constantly pointed out as of late: while lackadasial on one side, completely heavy handed on the other. No one on the TTC seems to know how to do things “right”.

    Bravo to Steve Munro and Gary Webster for pointing out one critical point that the bad apples (and by extension, ATU113) seem to ignore: the true employers of the TTC are the people who ride it themselves. In other places, such attitudes like sleeping on the job, taking an unauthorized break, reading comics, and yelling at customers for no reason other to give them a bad day is grounds for dismissal. Not here in the TTC unless you happen to have your bus smashed in by a car whose driver ran a red light.

    Speaking of that driver, he has asked me to forward this message to this board:

    “Kinnear’s attitude is typical of most, if not all of the union echelon at the TTC. When I came to join the TTC, I did it to serve the public good and I did so while driving my bus in the north end. I have always been graceful to my customers while driving my bus and I have always received comments to the like of “you’re one of the few friendly TTC drivers around these days”. Indeed, one of the fellow drivers on the route I was on had constantly had complaints and there was an incident where a mother and son was inadvertantely separated at the TTC station, the son had already boarded the bus and the mother was unable to get on after the doors had closed. This driver then proceeded to exit the station despite the son pleading with the driver for him to either get off, or allow his mother to get on. The driver finally stopped and kicked the kid out, 2 km from the station. This incident was mentioned to me by a fellow rider who took it into himself to help the kid back to the station where he could be reunited with his mother.

    This same person was up for disciplinary action around the same time TTC management was eyeballing me for being involved in an accident that was clearly not my fault. Calls to Greg [his name is Bob] Kinnear and the upper echelon for assistance were met with deaf ears, and when I finally did contact someone, he made a reference to the fact that I am not “one of them”. And hung up. I was fired by the TTC a few days later.

    I hold no ill will for the TTC management unlike the union which abandoned me like I was yesterday’s trash. I think this speaks of the present union culture where they look out for themselves rather than the travelling public. Kinnear’s statement about asking for more money is his solution to the problem, but I, along with many others know that throwing money at TTC workers won’t solve the current customer service crisis. I can make as much as I want and I can still be a good transit worker, but I can’t say about all the other workers out there.

    This environment is rife with union politics, which I find worse than office politics. At least I am glad to be out of there.”


  27. Tom West says:
    February 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    “’Every transfer will be checked, every fare will be scrutinize’

    “Finally! That’s how it should be.”

    Have you heard of a think called “The Law of Diminishing Returns?” If fare evasion is at 3% and all this checking reduces it to 2% but the service slows down so that you need more vehicles and lose riders then what have you gained? Nothing, as your costs are up and your revenue is down! The desired outcome is not to get every fare at any cost but to maximize the benefit while minimizing the cost which means finding the right blend so that if you reduce the enforcement you lose fares or if you increase enforcement the extra money collected does not match the added expense.

    In Science and Math we called that a min-max problem. Finding the value that minimized the bad thing (cost of enforcement) while maximizing the good (net revenue.) The police cannot catch everyone who breaks a law or speeds but they catch enough to make you think twice about doing it and most people realize that if they do it enough they WILL be caught.

    It is always easy to criticize some one else but until you have actually done their job and experienced all of their problems then you do not have right to criticize all of them; however the bus driver who was 15 minutes late and took a 15 minute break sound like he has an attitude problem.

    Steve: Unfortunately, TTC management often convey the message that fare evasion will not be tolerated, period, and employees who don’t pounce on every single infraction will be disciplined. This creates an attitude of resentment for unreasonable expectations, plus a surly “I’ve got to do this so I might as well make the public suffer too” outlook.


  28. So management has decided to slam the front line workers about service standards. Well, I rode along St. Clair yesterday and was dismayed to see streetcar drivers slowing to a crawl as they approached the intersection for fear that the driver in the left turn lane might confuse the transit signals for left turn signals and cut out in front.

    There is no denying that the transit signals COULD be mistaken for left turn signals. They look like left turn signals. Of course if the automobile driver reads the signs, looks at the verticle green arrows and thinks before cutting out he/she will realize that they are not left turn signals even though at first glance they certainly look like left turn signals.

    But the streetcar operators know that drivers often cut out by instinct when they see green. They leap forward without reading the signs or they get confused and follow the signals that look like left turn signals.

    So instead of trying to tell drivers that those signals aren’t left turn signals why don’t the TTC and the City put up signals that don’t look at all like left turn signals in the first place. Make the transit signal fixtures square instead of round. Paint them shiney black instead of yellow or green and instead of red yellow and green”traffic” lights use some other system like the vertical white lights used at the foot of Spadina or some other system similarly different from traffic lights. In other words, instead of signs telling drivers that the signals that look like left turn signals are really not left turn signals just put up signals that nobody would ever confuse with left turn signals in the first place. Then there might not even need to be as many signs.

    What has that got to do with service?


    The public is not well served when people get injured or killed in accidents. The public is also not well served when the transit line is blocked off because of accidents and the delays cause far more anger than an employee falling asleep in a ticket booth.

    The trouble isn’t all caused by frontline workers.


  29. I’m concerned that a work-to-rule will end up with injured bus drivers. This is not the time to further alienate innocent passengers.


  30. Consider this: I pay my bank about $10/month. Whenever I go into a branch with my latest weird financial problem, I always good service with friendly and helpful staff.

    By contrast, many TTC riders pay TTC more than *ten times* that amount, yet the culture is not one of customer service or helpfulness.


  31. Steve comments:

    “It is not illegal to take someone’s picture in a public place, only to use it without their permission for profit.”

    I’m not sure if TTC property is “public place”. Certainly a shopping mall, for example, isn’t, and if they don’t like whatever you’re doing you can be asked to leave. If you don’t leave, you are now trespassing. By extension, if the TTC decided to decree that no photography was to be taken on its premises, it would be within its rights to make you leave if you started to take pictures. (Of course, that is [currently] NOT the rule.)

    As long as the streets remain public places, the TTC can expect lots of photography. But I suspect that they could decree no photography on TTC property, including surface vehicles.


  32. So the sleeper guy has had his time in the news and video’s. Now we have Adam with an alleged affair (that’s his personal life). But if what the Star story today is true (having whoopie in his City Hall office, as the girl involved says), has the TTC adopted a do as I say, not as I do policy? Was Adam just doing his “job”?

    So I think Adam will resign as Chairman and get out of the mayoral race. Things are not looking good at all for drivers or management. This affair has really going to poison things between them.

    I sure hope we see cameras showing the good side of what all operators do instead of all negatives.

    Nope I was wrong.
    From the Globe & Mail just now:

    John Laschinger, chairman of Mr. Giambrone’s fledgling mayoralty campaign, confirmed to The Globe and Mail that his candidate will stay in the race to replace Mayor David Miller, hours after details of his relationship with a 20-year-old university student were made public.


  33. No doubt that most operators can operate a microphone, however, it’s obvious to anyone who has ridden the TTC that some cannot. In any case, the goal is to provide good customer service, and that means clear, easy to understand, well thought out and explained, timely and consistent messaging.

    It’s like if you went to a McFonalds and the big mac was a combo 3 instead of a combo 1 … stardardization is professional and simple, it reduces errors and makes it easy for people to understand what is happening.

    It goes without saying that an operator who is in the bathroom can’t use a microphone, and so being able to repeat a message is useful when the door is left open at a station for example…

    The same should happen in the booths … there should be a binder of professional signs that can be put in a holder on the window … when the collector needs to go to the bathroom, he puts the bathroom break sign up … when he is out of metropasses he can put up that sign…

    Likewise it would be good to have on streetcars an external speaker that can notify people at stops that “the next car is empty and only 1 minute behind this one, please do not board” or something along those lines…


  34. George Bell – good suggestions, all of them, and pretty cheap to implement.

    franc – I appreciate hearing from the people actually driving the vehicles. We need both sides of the story.


  35. Ross Wright feels that Adam Giambrone’s hi-jinks are his own business. I don’t agree.

    The fact is it appears that Adam was playing both women for his own desires and being a liar in the process. It smacks a little of Tiger Woods and does nothing to make people trust him, especially women.

    This is very disappointing as I would like to see Adam become mayor.

    Steve: Please note that I don’t want this site to turn into a commentary on Giambrone’s morals. The way he explained what he was doing and his motivations for acting as he did are, sadly, the heart of the issue. I too am deeply disappointed. However, the bigger issue is the future of transit in Toronto, and to that end I don’t want to get drawn into a sideshow. He has decided to stay in the race, for now, although I expect future polls will send a resounding message.


  36. I’ve seen a bus which had a call sign “Bus Full” on GO transit. I was traveling the opposite direction when I heard the driver say you can’t put up that call sign. Maybe it’s time to change the rules and see what happens.

    On another point, it looks like the ATU wants to open some town hall meetings with the public. If this is the answer to placate the public, I really think the ATU should call for new leadership. What good is a town hall when there all of the answers are “TTC riders are always at fault”? TTC staff aren’t even sure what the bylaws of the TTC are!

    Steve: Please see my just-posted article for what the ATU actually said at their press conference. I agree that some ATU members (not to mention TTC management) see things in this sort of black-and-white way, but that’s not the approach the union says it is taking. In effect, they want to unite with the riders to force changes in working conditions and in funding. I’m not sure this will work, but they say quite clearly that not every employee is perfect and some need to change their ways. It’s not a hard line “we’re always right” stance, and it will be interesting to see how long this takes to filter down to the more raucous of the rank and file.


  37. This may drift a bit from the topic at hand. I’ll let Steve decide whether he will post this or not.

    I just can’t understand what in the world Giambrone was thinking here. If he lacked so much judgment as to get into this mess, including performing that “activity” in his office how should anyone trust him to have good judgment in dealing with City matters.

    We saw Tiger Woods implode a month earlier over basically the same type of “evidence”, did Adam not hear about that?

    He hasn’t a hope in hell of winning now. No matter how you paint it he has been disgraced, the only debatable point is how badly.

    There was enough bad TTC press on the TV tonight to last a few weeks. Kinnear made an absolutely hilarious speech in which he challenged reporters to feel free to take a two minute washroom break. This guy is a legend only in his own mind and at this point is just harming the TTC and the people he’s supposed to represent. I don’t think I’d want to go to work tomorrow if I drove a bus.

    Steve: Please see my previous reply to David O’Rourke’s comment about Giambrone, and the “Walking The Talk (2)” article about Kinnear’s press conference. Unless there is some major development in the story, I will likely cut off remarks about Giambrone’s morals and ethics this evening. The larger issue is the future of the transit system, who will lead it from now to the election, and how strong support for it will be with the new mayor and council.


  38. franc wrote: “The reasons I don’t want people on my car during my layovers are severalfold:

    1. I want some alone time to clear my head.
    2. I like to eat alone, not in front of strangers.
    3. I want to talk on my phone privately, without others listening.
    4. I don’t want people getting annoyed as to why we’re not moving.

    I don’t get a lunch break and I don’t think some alone time is too much to ask.”

    No problem, except when the weather is bad. I have waited for a 501 at Long Branch, and although the streetcar is there, passengers are not allowed to board. While it is okay to wait on a nice day, the loop’s shelter is of no real benefit when it is a cold day – which means that it would be beneficial to be allowed to board a nice warm streetcar. However, Steve has already made a very acceptable alternative – change crews at Ronces so they can get a long break, etc. or use a drop back method. Once a streetcar arrives, there is a driver waiting to take over the streetcar while the incoming driver get off to have a short break.

    And as for the phone calls, if an operator is on duty, should he/she really be allowed to make phone calls? Yes, operators have their own life to live outside of work, but when at work should they not be worried about work and not their private lives? Just a thought.


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