More Icing, Less Cake (Updated)

Today the TTC announced the creation of a Customer Liaison Panel following up from the 2010 report of the Customer Service Advisory Panel.

Updated October 13, 2011 at 11:45pm:  The TTC has confirmed that the November Town Hall meeting will occur in the Council Chamber, and they are hoping for live coverage via Rogers Cable 10 and/or Internet in the same manner as Council meetings.

Chair Karen Stintz observed that “customers make our system what it is”, an intriguing comment considering what City Council and the Commission are forcing on customers in response to City funding cuts.  Yes, customers are the heart of any organization and without them, there is little raison-d’être, no matter how lofty a mission statement one might concoct.

To engage customers better, the TTC will conduct quarterly “town halls” beginning on Thursday, November 24 at City Hall.  I hope that they use Council Chambers [this has now been confirmed by the TTC], not a small committee room with limits on numbers and speakers so appallingly shown by Toronto’s Executive Committee.  TTC’s new Chief Customer Service Officer, Chris Upfold, observed that it is “dangerous to meet customers en masse … you don’t know what they will say”.  That’s precisely why you need to meet them — if you already know, or presuppose, what comments riders might have, or prejudge which ones were worthy of attention, then why meet at all?

Stintz noted that “it would take some time” to implement recommendations as “culture change” is not an overnight thing in an old organization.  This statement is odd on two counts. The age of an organization should not condemn it to bureaucratic paralysis — that’s the outcome of a lack of direction and focus on quality and improvement, an assumption that the TTC is the best on the planet.

Moreover, this doesn’t address the issue of frontline staff versus management attitudes and support.  Customers have many complaints about the staff they meet every day.  However, the way the system is operated, the priorities for improvement and the dedication to follow-through beyond photo ops and notices, these are issues for management and the Commission.  Managers must manage, and Commissioners must provide resources to match expectations.

Stintz listed five goals for improving customer service:

  • feedback to customers
  • cleanliness in stations and vehicles
  • a mission statement
  • changing practices to have a customer focus
  • encouraging customers to be advocates for transit

Stintz went on to list various projects such as the new subway cars, the York-U/Vaughan subway extension and the Eglinton line as examples of what the TTC is doing for its customers.  That’s fine, but the real issue is that in only two months, the TTC will cut service in response to budget constraints at the City.  We will get baubles, a few new lines, one almost a decade in the future, but meanwhile don’t try to get on the Dufferin bus.

Chris Upfold spoke in more detail about the TTC’s engagement with its customers.  There will be more surveys, the Town Halls mentioned earlier and the liaison panel.  A few issues are already being addressed:

  • Fare and ticket/transfer policies will be reviewed to eliminate nuisances and to prepare for the transition to the Presto smart card system.  The intent is to look at what works for customers (a novel idea in many technology implementation projects).  There are no specifics, and what might be a “nuisance” obviously varies depending on who you talk to and what form of ticket they already use.  Transfer rules, for example, have no effect on passholders.
  • The Customer Service Centre hours will be extended to reflect when people actually need information and assistance with support available via phone and online, including social media, from 0700 to 2200 daily.  The TTC will actively attempt to follow up with timely callbacks in response to problems.
  • The Request Stop Program, formerly available only to women, will now be offered to all riders looking for a safer or more convenient drop off from buses at night.

Upfold hopes that riders will recommend the TTC to their friends and family, a hope that implies considerable improvement in the typical rider experience at a time when the quality of that experience is being cut back.  Stintz tried to make the best of the situation by hoping that improvements such as cleaner stations would offset issues with wider headways and crowding.  If she really believes that, then there’s little hope for the TTC.

Stintz argues that the City has told the TTC to operate with less subsidy, but she ignores the fact that there has been no public debate about the effects and benefits of alternatives including fare increases or freezes, service standards, and the long-term problems of handling growing ridership.  The TTC may save 1% or so on its 2012 budget with the revised loading standards, but that’s at best a one-year fix.  When buses are full, they are full.  What will the TTC do in 2013?

Indeed, it’s the unseen demand, the would-be riders the passenger counts completely miss, who are the problem.  They’re the equivalent of the “silent majority” of voters who, some claim, feel that transit is oversubsidized.  These lost riders vote with their feet, their bicycles, their cars.  Their potential political support for transit is squandered in the name of municipal economy.

Steve O’Brien (who chaired the 2010 advisory panel and will sit on the liaison panel for 2012-13) was asked if he was satisfied with the rate of implementation of his reports recommendations.  He claims to be “impressed”, that the panel didn’t “expect instant results” and that he is “very proud” the TTC took the recommendations seriously.  Chris Upfold noted that about 20 of the 78 recommendations would be implemented by yearend, and that a further 25 would be rolled out in 2012.

What nobody mentioned is that most of these recommendations address problems of communication in a broad sense, but the report is silent about system management and service quality.

There has been no discussion of the service implications of the budget cuts beyond the general policy change in loading standards — we don’t yet know which routes and time periods will be affected, or how much more crowded they will be.  Chair Stintz stated that the proposed cuts, in detail, would be part of the budget process at the TTC and Council.

Chief General Manager Gary Webster confirmed that the cuts would go into effect in January 2012 to get the greatest benefit for the budget year.  Verification of riding counts is now in progress and schedule design will follow shortly.  By mid-November, the details of January service levels will be known, certainly in time for the first Town Hall.  However, if any Fairy Godmother plans to rescue the TTC from service cuts, they will have to do so quickly.  Stintz may talk about this as part of the budget discussions, but the City won’t finalize its budget until February, long after the service cuts are already on the street.

The currently proposed fare increase of 10¢ per token will only offset the roughly $29-million hole in the TTC’s budget which already includes service cuts.  If current services are to be funded through fares, then an increase of at least another 5¢ would be required.  Looking ahead, the TTC’s total operating costs will grow by about $100m annually.  This implies an ongoing need for about $67m more in subsidies and $33m more in fares (equivalent to a dime every year) just to keep the system as it is.

At a time when the world needs serious, informed discussions about finances, Toronto is again papering over its transit cracks with one-time fixes.  Those who argue for better service, even for retaining what we have, are portrayed as whiners, special interest groups who do not represent the broad voice of taxpayers.  We must wait three years for those taxpayers, those voters, to vent their true feelings on City policies.

Better Customer Service is a good idea.  Adding this to an already excellent and improving system (dare I say it, one with the kind of pro-transit outlook that brought us the Ridership Growth Strategy) would be icing on an already rich and delicious cake.  In the face of service cuts, greater crowding and an inevitable decline in staff-to-customer relations, that cake will be small, thin and bitter no matter how happy a smiling face sits on the thick icing above.

29 thoughts on “More Icing, Less Cake (Updated)

  1. Will you be joining the Customer Liaison Panel? You are certainly highly qualified and I don’t think it would be a limiting as it would be if you where a commissioner.

    Steve: No. I am happy to talk to them if they will hear me, but sitting on a panel like that would be a conflict with my activities as a blogger. I can hardly be someone lobbing questions at TTC management and Commissioners in a press scrum one day, and just another member of the transit riding public the next day. Others on the panel would not have the soap box I do.


  2. AAARRGGGG….this sounds like the TTC still doesn’t know what its customers want.

    Town Halls can be good as a means of gaining a broad perspective of trends; however, they do not provide a complete representation of rider needs. Not only do meetings only attract the dedicated riders who have the gumption to get to those meetings, but dedication does necessarily = well thought out ideas. A continuous and more well rounded information gathering approach would be in line.

    On another note, I noticed recently a few observers pointing out how important citzens feel the TTC is to city life. There is a developing sense in this city that for many of us, the one thing that we have in common with others is getting on that bus, streetcar or subway train to go somewhere.

    Maybe it’s time the TTC moved away from using the definite article when it discusses itself in relation to customers; instead of saying “help the TTC get better” say “help your TTC get better”. I know people on here have balked at such wordplay subtleties when mentioned in the past — why should the DRL be changed when it’s obvious what it means. However, when a sense of collective ownership development might help things along, such simple wordplay can facilitate that change.

    However, realistically, I don’t expect the management culture to embrace public input willingly until the idea of the customer being a partner has been drilled into the total workplace culture for at least a decade.


  3. Glad to hear they are getting updated ridership figures. Let’s hope it is more accurate than the figures used in the previous round of cuts which I understand were based upon ONE day count FIVE years ago!


  4. They’ll want people who will follow directions from hand-signals, talk only when spoken to, agree with everything the chair or mayor says, pay for their expenses from their parent’s company, prefer buses, and who use their car most of the time.


  5. Darwin,

    I don’t think Steve’s resume would be read, shredded as soon as they see STEVE MUNRO on the resume. This after all the criticism on this blog (not saying it is bad).


    I heard before that they are getting way more riders which brings more costs, but doesn’t that bring more income too?

    If you have to make 10,000,000 cupcakes at a sale price of $1, you will get 10m. If you need to make 20m more, you would get 30m.

    I don’t get the whole “we are getting more costs due to more riders” thing and I think it is B.S.

    Steve: But if you have to expand the factory and hire more workers because the capacity of what you have is only 15m cupcakes, all those extras are not “free”. We have already seen many routes in 2011 get extra service to handle growing demand, and this costs money (some of which came from the late night service cuts in May).

    Cheapest way for the TTC I think would be comments cards instead of getting 8-12 people every few months together. Specially the TTC staff who will be paid to be at those meetings.


  6. Steve with all due respect, I think that most people would be willing to put up with a few inconveniences if by the end of the decade riders can at least enjoy utilizing at least 30 kilometres of new fully grade-separated rapid transit (or baubles as you call it). Overcrowding on Dufferin for instance, inevitably would be remedied via a new station at Eglinton diverting many customers away from the Bloor-Danforth stop.

    Steve: These two issues have little to do with each other. One is a big capital project while the other is an ongoing question of operating budgets and service quality. Don’t forget that Dufferin was always going to be an underground stop anyhow. “A few inconveniences” is not how current riders on many surface routes, including Dufferin, would describe today’s service let alone what they will have after the cuts. You are mixing apples and oranges.


  7. Ogthedim, you have a point. Maybe the TTC doesn’t know what riders want but should but on the other hand, perhaps there’s hope that they’re really willing to listen and actually learn what the riders want. Let’s just hope that they really are willing to listen and that this is no whitewash or whatever. No matter how open-minded any organization is, they’re not going to act on every suggestion just because someone just happened to bring it up. Steve, you most certainly should be wanting to say what’s on your mind every chance you get. I’m sure you’ll be telling it exactly like it is just like always.

    Steve: The question then will be whether the usual suspects, including a few Commissioners, treat those of us who want better service as “special interests” who can safely be ignored because “real taxpayers” are sitting at home watching football on TV.


  8. I think we can all agree that most if not any proposed service cuts are unwelcome and unhelpful at best; and that barring added subsidies and other miracles, that a modest fare increase should at least be a part of the conversation, not simply to mitigate some portion of the cuts but to allow for essential service Increases where possible.


    That said, I don’t think customer service issues (apart from headway/crowding etc.) should be left to fester, simply because other issues merit attention.

    Though, w/that said; I’m not a big fan of endless panels (we just had one); I’m far more interested in seeing the small, but real changes that would make life easier or more pleasant for customers addressed.

    These come to mind:

    1) Let one-stop put in more platform screens, most customers want to be able to see important service updates, the time or the news, and 1 screen per platform doesn’t cut it. As I understand it, one-stop will happily pay for these at most stations as its a money-maker to them, so let’s get out of the way and get that happening.

    Steve: Actually it’s not One-Stop anymore. They were bought out by the company that has the new master advertising contract with the TTC. In any event, I agree that we need more info in the stations. Recent content changes have made the announcements longer, but using teensy-weensy type that can only be read when one is close to the screen. However, I believe that the TTC bore some of the installation costs on the original batch of signs. This would have to be worked out for any expansion. Also, there is the question of whether more signs would mean more revenue for the advertising company.

    2) Cleanliness has 2 major issues in it that I’m conscious of (as in deficiencies) one is the track-side wall issue; repair and maintain, not hard, not costly. The second is the washrooms, Eglinton is much better now; let’s get more of these done (is this in the capital budget?)

    Steve: I don’t think so.

    3) 2-hour, time-based transfers. This immensely improves the value-proposition for tokens.

    Steve: Long overdue, although this may require changes in how transfers are dispensed in subway stations as they would now be more valuable as “good anywhere” passes for two hours from the point where they were issued.

    4) Just instruct TTC staff on 3 simple issues. (to be clear, many are good, but for the laggards) . When someone greets you ‘ ie. “Good morning” you must respond in kind; when someone complains, ALWAYS apologize for their bad experience, even if its in no way your fault or for that matter the TTC’s. As an extension of the preceding, if you know you are running way late, or have other ‘issues’ that might irritate most customers (ie. broken a/c), apologize pro-actively, and thank riders for their understanding. Those drivers/staff who already do this earn great respect and friendship and diffuse much tension, it should be standard procedure.

    Do the above and watch people’s attitudes improve.


  9. How about making the TTC employees care again? The standard answer to any query is “not my problem, out of my hands, call the TTC”. We need to be able to call a direct number to a supervisor for fast results; it is called accountability. I have not seen an inspector on the main routes I take in years. They need to stop watching computer screens hiding at Mt. Dennis and get out and deal with the real world and real people. The TTC is run as if nothing is anybody’s fault and it shows.


  10. While I must admit I too am somewhat jaded, I think it is a step forward to create a customer service panel but we will only see how effective it is when we see the kind of person appointed to it and whether their suggestions have any effect. If it is simply window-dressing it will be yet another waste of time and money.

    I agree with James that there a a few things that TTC management could do (without, I think, much cost) to reduce customer turn-off.

    1. Get rid of the strange transfer rules and allow time-based transfers. (This should reduce driver/customer conflicts).

    2. Work harder on cleanliness. Maybe there should be a cleaner at all major transfer points whose job it would be to walk through as many buses and streetcars as they can and simply pick up newspapers, bottles and cans. (Yes, I realise customers should not just leave them there but …)

    3. Work harder to either keep to the schedules or, on some routes anyway, run on a headway-based schedule. Seeing frequent processions of buses and streetcars does not give customers confidence that anyone is ‘in charge’.

    4. Carry out regular surveys on ridership so that the available resources can be properly deployed. Using 5-year-old figures of loading to determine cuts (or expansions) is ridiculous.

    5. Respond to users who take the trouble to complain or compliment. Even a form response would be an improvement.


  11. Miroslav Glavic wrote, “If you have to make 10,000,000 cupcakes at a sale price of $1, you will get 10m. If you need to make 20m more, you would get 30m. I don’t get the whole ‘we are getting more costs due to more riders’ thing and I think it is B.S.”

    Suppose your cost for those cupcakes is $1.20 each. You therefore need a $2 million subsidy to produce ten million. If you then had to produce 30 million, of course you would generate $30 million in revenue, but your subsidy would need to be $6 million, and not still only $2 million.

    Unless there is 100% cost recovery from the farebox, more riders will always mean more cost. As much as the TTC excels in BS, this is not an instance of it.

    Steve: It’s a bit more subtle than that. The $1.20 cost per cupcake may include a lot of fixed costs that do not vary if you make a few more or a few less cupcakes. If production goes up a bit, the cost per cupcake actually goes down, and if production goes down, the fixed expenses drive the unit cost up. By analogy to the TTC, most of the cost of the cupcake is the person baking it, not the flour and flavouring. Even the baking over has a fixed cost provided that it has spare capacity and is fired up more or less continuously (rather like the subway with 5 minute headways at 1 am).

    Depending on when and where more riders appear, they may or may not trigger additional costs, and these costs may or may not be covered by added revenue.


  12. James wrote,

    “Let one-stop put in more platform screens, most customers want to be able to see important service updates, the time or the news, and 1 screen per platform doesn’t cut it.”

    There should be several screens down the length of each platform. Plus, here’s a radical idea: each only needs to face one direction, the direction that the subway is heading. Why? Simply because people stand on the platform looking in the direction that the subway is coming from, so screens facing towards them get looked at, and screens facing the other direction do not get looked at (except by people walking down the platform).

    Of course, this is not an ‘invented in Toronto’ idea, so it will never fly with the TTC. Take a look at this photo to see how this is done in Buenos Aires.


  13. A fabulous analogy of a thick slab of icing with the Ford deco-label happy-face atop a dry crumble with sawdust and durabond filler as the chocolate went to the caronies and the car-onlies of the Mayor and his illk.

    The problems are very systemic here: the alleged “Commissioners” are “ommissioners” and they are mostly suburban car drivers it seems, and like the rest of the Fordists, do NOT want to see that cars are in fact greatly subsidized, and there’s tons of Caravy.

    One eg. that I’ve been trying to share about to the politicians/media is an older quote from a Jan 10 1996 Globe article where Ken Cameron, Vancouver’s chief regional planner said: We realized that the public subsidy enjoyed by the private automobile amounts to $2,700 per automobile per year, or about seven times the amount we subsidize public transit”.

    So how do we get to change this Commission ahead of it doing further damage to our transit? Who voted this Commission in in the first place? What about putting back in place that Vehicle Registration Tax, but at $100? Why not road tolls on the incoming Gardiner and DVP? Why did that motion for that study by Matlow die a 26-19 death and more importantly, why did Councillors deBaeremaeker, Filion, Carroll, Perks and Mihevc vote to kill the study, while most other progressives and some conservatives like Minnan-Wong, voted for it?

    Our transick is devolving to trans*it…. though I don’t object to some tweakings if it’s not working out well enough.


  14. October 2010, Rob Ford gets elected Mayor of all the people. Gasoline prices were under $1.07 a litre.

    October 2011, Rob Ford is still Mayor of those who still agree with him. Gasoline prices are $1.28 a litre.

    Why are people turning to transit? Gasoline prices for one. There is increases in ridership, but on Rob direction, the commission will be cutting service instead of increasing service based. What bizarro world is Rob Ford living in?


  15. I find it increasingly futile and difficult to be an advocate for transit in an environment were the chair has not shown to be an advocate for transit herself.


  16. Years ago I have informally surveyed my coworkers (I work at Bathurst and King)with two brief questions:

    1) Do you take the TTC at this time?
    2) If you have taken the TTC in the past why did you stop?

    Surprisingly, nobody mentioned service frequency as a reason. I heard other things: feet on seats, loud music, pushing, coughing in your face, rude passengers… This actually gives me some hope. Unfortunately, the advisory panel can’t realistically expect improved service frequency or new lines because that requires money. However, if the TTC can educate the public on transit ethics it can gain more customers without spending much more.

    A campaign on transit ethics can be conducted at schools, community centres, TTC offices etc.. This type of grievances with the system can be communicated by the advisory board. Otherwise, how would the management know why they are losing customers?


  17. In reply to Scott D who suggested

    “How about making the TTC employees care again?”

    I would like to respond that much if not most of the perception that TTC Operators don’t care is a false impression created by the media — especially a few sources with other histories that show a lack of concern for the facts.

    When I see the following (which I witnessed) and similar employee behaviors chronicled on the front page of The Sun or on the local TV news I will accept the popular perception of TTC employees:

    The Ossington bus driver who saw an elderly gentleman with a cane hurrying from the streetcar stop on Queen to the bus stop around the corner. This driver stopped his bus, opened the door and said “no hurry sir, you can get on here.”

    The Operator who brings a Perly’s Guide to work with her and looks up nearby streets for passengers.

    The driver who leapt from his seat and helped a disabled passenger who had lost her balance at the bus stop. He helped her to her feet and supported her onto the bus and to her seat, all the time expressing concern about her well being. He acted faster than I reacted — to my shame I did nothing — and I was right behind her.

    The operators who check their mirrors at every stop and wait for people who are hurrying to catch the bus — sometimes for a surprisingly long time

    The Operators I see from my kitchen window who see young mothers with children — or anyone for that matter — on the opposite side of the street waving. They stop at the next nearby bus stop and wait.

    The ticket collector I saw who maintained his smile and very pleasant attitude while a deranged customer yelled at him at top volume. The customer’s problem — one of the three ticket takers at Dundas Station was closed at a shift change and counting the till. The customer had to walk 6 metros to pay. The abuse from the customer was unbelievable and sustained – the employee reaction – smiles.

    The Operators who recognize me from the street and welcome me effusively to the bus as I board.

    Virtually 100% of the Operators who wish me a pleasant day/evening and a you’re welcome when I say Thank you when I leave.

    The Operators who acknowledge and say Thank you to every single passenger — even in rush hour — when they pay.

    The Operators who remember rider requests at boarding and remind the riders to get off.

    The Operators who jump out of their seats to help with bundle buggies and baby strollers — and not just the pretty young mothers — seniors and men as well.

    The Operators who make detailed announcements describing diversions and the alternatives open to riders.

    Anyone with a desire to do so will see a TTC employee going above and beyond the call of duty during any week of the year. Not all employees are perfect and there is room for reform. (Streetcar bunching comes to mind.) However, my experience is that the vast majority of Operators are polite motivated employees who like the public (a necessary pre-requisite) and enjoy helping people with their day.

    The problem with the TTC — and the chief point of friction — remains underfunding and inadequate service. Overcrowding, delays, excessive waits and short turns are not — for the most part — due to Operators’ actions. They are due to bad management and political inaction or outright ideological stupidity. To my mind, when a customer asks “why are we short turning?” the correct answer actually is “Ask the TTC” — especially as is often the case when the passenger is abusive. No employee should be expected to put up with abuse.

    Steve: Thanks, Michael, for this detailed response. Yes, I do see the occasional operator who is acting unreasonably, often because he is trying to implement some equally unreasonable management “policy”. I see many operators who are doing their jobs well, even they may not be chatting with everyone who boards. We hear far too much about the “bad apples”, and get a lot of anti-union spin in the process.


  18. And if you’re trying to sell a basket of apples, get rid of the bad ones. Sort it out , so to speak. It is TTC’s job to sort it out in this case.


  19. “The abuse from the customer was unbelievable and sustained – the employee reaction – smiles. “

    May I remark that customer any customer service job could be the type where it is acceptable to laugh at crazy people? Hiding one’s laughter through a polite cordial smile is way easier than trying to ignore the funny situation to begin with.


  20. Michael Greason posted a number of examples of TTC employees going above and beyond. I have to agree that these are more numerous than either the average TTC rider recalls or the media reports. The trouble is, it is human nature to more easily recall and exaggerate negative things than positive things. It only takes something like a trip involving stopping at 20% of the bus stops (or 20% of red lights for drivers) to result in an individual recalling the trip as “having to stop at every stop” (or red light).

    That said, the big issue with the TTC, in my opinion, is that when problems occur, the TTC is seen as doing absolutely nothing at worst, or only giving lip service at best. This naturally leads to people concluding the only action is to get out the camera phone and send the picture or video to the media. The result is that a single isolated incident is in everyone’s memory of “bad things that happen with the TTC”.

    The TTC really needs to change the way the public perceives how they act when faced with a complaint.

    By the way, I have taken the time to use the TTC’s website to submit a compliment when an employee has gone that extra mile. I strongly suggest that others do so as well when they observe unexpected positive things.


  21. I don’t know how feasible this is but I’d love for the TTC to actually institute customer service. This is one of the things I noticed in Vienna and Munich. Fares are largely dispensed through machines. Enforcement is through proof of payment. The staff aren’t ticket collectors any more. They are customer service agents who will sell you fares but also offer loads of information and directions. They know the local area around the station reasonably well. They can sometimes even help with services from other agencies (say airport bus for example). They are also smartly dressed and reasonably well-groomed, almost like airline counter staff. This completely changes the attitude of the travelling public towards transit employees.


  22. My feelings are based on my experience alone and not some construct by the media. I have felt this way for a few years not just this angry year. By employees I should have been clear that I mean management too. Nobody at the TTC from the drivers to the inspectors all the way up is ever responsible for anything anymore; it’s always the fault of somebody or something else. If you see 7 buses in a row on Lansdowne, it’s the computer’s fault; it’s is never the driver or an inspector (which I have not seen on that route in years). Basic vehicle separation seems impossible but it is the computer’s fault. Right. It’s because nobody cares.


  23. Such a marvelous idea – set up a panel to review and develop Customer Service Policies. Unfortunately, this panel will include NO front-line staff (nor any of their Union representatives). In my opinion, this is a complete farce. How can you develop Customer Service Policies without including the very people who deliver the service and deal with the riders of the system?

    The front line employees are the ones most able to explain the day to day problems that the TTC experiences — not the managers who don’t spend eight (or more) hours per day actually making the system work. If the input from the front line employees isn’t sought, does the management actually expect any buy-in to even more directives from on high?

    The TTC is establishing a new Customer Relations Panel at the same time they plan such “improvements” as increasing the loading standard back to 2003 levels, decreasing the frequency of vehicles during rush hour, most likely another round of route cutbacks as there will be fewer operators through attrition. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be able to foresee even more dissatisfied passengers and a more demoralized workforce.

    The front line employees have had a very demoralizing summer at the heavy handed treatment we have been receiving from management and from the media. I foresee that most operators will be spending their days driving with the upper barriers closed to minimize contact with the passengers as this will serve to reduce confrontations with the anger that the new loading standard and vehicle frequencies will cause.


  24. The problem with the TTC — and the chief point of friction — remains underfunding and inadequate service.

    It’s not that there isn’t enough money, it’s that politicians have a tendency to adopt irrational subway expansion projects that could have been better spent on capital SoGR projects needed to keep the system safe and efficient and not endanger passengers’ hearing (why haven’t the T-1 brakes been rectified yet?). Needed SoGR capital that gets funded promptly reduces maintenance costs on the operating budget later on. That can include funding new vehicle purchases when some are due to retire.

    These kinds of things are a symptom of a larger problem that stretches far beyond Toronto that makes the economic balance of our transportation system a complete basket case.


  25. You know, the TTC could probably get away with a lot, if they could do one simple thing, and that is run their vehicles on time, If there is supposed to be a bus (or street car) that comes at 3:47 and it shows up at 4:02 along with the 3:51, 3:55 and 3:59 buses, then the TTC has failed on it’s simplest job, reliability. Grumpy drivers, sleeping collectors, stations that look like they were last cleaned in 1957 and vehicles that match and expensive fares and a transfer system that nobody can figure out, including the drivers who issue and examine the transfers, all that is forgivable if you can get the 3:47 bus to actually show up between 3:47:00 and 3:47:59.

    The occasional late bus, well stuff happens, but when you get a route like 36 Finch West where you get a herd of 6 or 7 buses every 20 minutes when they are supposed to be 3 minutes apart, then it means the system is broken. Wasting money on customer service panels, when you can’t get the buses to run on time, just makes the customer and tax payer shake his head.

    Steve: To which I would make a small amendment: Where 6 or 7 buses would be expected in 20 minutes, it’s not being “on time” that passengers care about, but being regularly spaced and all (or mostly) going to the expected destinations. The lack of effective route management has always been a problem with the TTC, and now that they actually know where every vehicle is, they don’t always seem to care.


  26. Great example on the Toronto Sun website today. A woman made a request stop and a second woman said I’ll get off here to. The Operator would’t let the second woman off and this was the subject of a complaint, of which The Sun made a great deal. The Operator was portrayed as overbearing and nonsensical and the second woman was allowed to offer her simplistic sarcastic opinions.

    It was only towards the end of the video that the heart of the matter came out – but only in a passing way. The Request Stop Policy really does only allow one woman (woman now – shortly to be anyone) to get off between stops at night in order to maximize safety. Also to maximize safety other passengers are not allowed to follow and possibly victimize the person exiting. This is TTC policy.

    Not all predators/muggers are men, though I agree that the majority may be. The Sun also seems to expect perfection from our criminal justice system. Imagine the hue and cry if an Operator let off a second passenger – in clear violation of policy – and the second passenger victimized the first. The Sun would be in full populist rage about this “preventable” crime that only occurred through the Operators”carelessness.”

    I agree that this situation is murky. Various solutions or enforcement choices make sense and some judgement is necessary. I don’t think a debate about whether the Operator was right or wrong to enforce Commission policy is the issue. However, I think that putting this relatively minor incident prominently in the news is irrelevant to the true understanding of the commitment or lack of commitment of TTC Operators to public service. The populist and sarcastic rhetoric is not even consistent with the real issues as eventually explained in The Sun’s own report.

    Steve: This also shows the limitations of the policy. Yes, one purpose was to avoid followers, but that’s not the only reason. At night, someone who is infirm may simply want a shorter (and hence safer) walk home especially in bad weather. An operator cannot be expected to differentiate cases where someone is a potential target from those where it’s a matter of convenience due to the poor location of a stop from some customers’ perspective. I have seen cases where multiple people are let off at non-stop locations, and as usual, it’s probably a case of each operator’s choice what to do under the circumstances (with the certain knowledge that whatever it is, they are “wrong” in someone’s eyes).


  27. On that note of schedule reliability, one thing that would go a long way and could be implemented tomorrow is to just enforce that no vehicle should be leaving a timing point EARLY. Everyone gets that things happen, and vehicles will be late, but there are few things more infuriating than waiting 20 minutes because a driver didn’t see fit to wait for his scheduled departure.


  28. Today I learned that some of the actions TTC employees make are bounds for them to get punished by TTC management.

    Today I was taking the 501 eastbound replacement bus, since streetcar service has still not resumed. When I asked the driver if they could stop me one stop past Kipling, (the buses continues to head eastbound anyways to make a loop and come back westbound), the driver started to nag me that people in the neighbourhood don’t know the “rules” about the replacement bus service. I proceeded to tell the driver that it’s not like the TTC explains that there are any rules to the service. The driver then told me that they would let me off but they’re not supposed to because if the rider gets hurt, it’s the driver’s fault. I was also told that management watches over them to make sure they don’t let people off past Kipling.

    So in other words I’m trying to say that the problems customers are facing with the TTC range a lot further than the drivers we see on a daily basis. Management is a huge part of the problems customers face everyday.

    Steve: This is an example of inconsistencies in TTC management’s directions to staff. There’s a lot of emphasis on stopping only at stops as a safety matter, and yet the request stop program allows operators, at their discretion, to drop people off at night in between stops. In your case, you were asking to use an existing stop, and so there cannot be an issue of safety. This sounds like a policy gone mad. If this is through misinterpretation by lower level management, that’s no excuse.


  29. Another example of why people are bugged by TTC customer service.

    St. Clair Crossover Announcement

    Some riders want to know why they are being inconvenienced. I realise that reasons were given months ago for this disruption; however, people forget. The TTC once again is assuming people know what they know.

    Funny how the reason is mentioned in the web page title of the service advisory, but not in the service advisory itself.

    Another example where the TTC does not think like a rider.

    Steve: Brad Ross was on Metro Morning on Friday talking about this (and about the similar work pending at King Station next spring), but I must agree that there is an inconsistency in the “why” part of TTC information materials. Then of course there’s the problems with inconsistencies and inaccuracies in content, or the absence of information.


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