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TTC announces new customer service efforts: try not to notice longer waits and more crowds - Open File Toronto

October 13, 2011
John Michael McGrath
Open File Toronto

This morning, TTC Chair Karen Stintz gathered much of the City Hall press corps down at Bathurst Station to announce a number of new initiatives, most prominently a Cusomer Service Liaison Panel, with a town hall meeting scheduled for November 24th. (If you'd like to apply to the panel, you can submit your resume through this page at the TTC.) Stintz emphasized that the changes coming to the TTC are part of a long-term cultural shift that's happening at the transit body. That cultural shift was nicely summed up by its chief customer service operator, Chris Upfold.

"There's something dangerous about meeting with customers en masse, because you never know what they're going to say," said Upfold. But he meant it in a nice way, talking about the cultural changes that are needed at the TTC. The plan is to have town halls at least every three months.

On top of the regular town halls, there are three other big changes coming to the TTC:

A customer-focused review on the fares policy: the TTC is going to look at how its fares policies add to the nuisances of TTC users. The TTC's policy on emergency transfers is an example of something maddening for riders, who can't get a refund if for example, they enter a TTC station and for whatever reason their subway train isn't running.

Customer service centre: The hours of the TTC's main customer service desk will be increased from the current 8:00 a.m. To 5:00 p.m. (which doesn't really work for any TTC riders who have jobs) to a more sensible 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

An expanded Request Stop program: No longer formally restricted just to women, the TTC's request stop program will be expanded to anyone who feels vulnerable while they're travelling.

Of course, these changes are all happening in the context of a TTC that's shrinking under budget pressure. The exact changes to the service levels will be out by the time of the November town hall, according to TTC Chief Gary Webster. In the meantime, transit advocates expect the first thing the customer service town hall will hear is: don't cut service levels.

"A lot of these improvements are overdue, but we've glossed over the big issue that whatever you call it, they've cut service," says Jamie Kirkpatrick, transit advocate with the Toronto Environmental Alliance. Kirkpatrick would like to see some conversation about how to get the money that transit needs and keep service levels—echoing the people who told the Core Service Review that they'd prefer to see higher taxes than service cuts.

The problem is that, according to Brad Ross at the TTC, the budget gap the TTC is looking at was $85 million and they've only brought that down to $29 million by dropping service levels. As it is, a $ 0.10 fare increase will cover that gap (it will raise about $31 million) but if the TTC was to cover the whole gap itself it would need to look at something more than a twenty-five cents increase.

With the city's fiscal situation apparently not as dire as it once seemed, maybe the TTC can wheedle out some new money?

As originally published here: http://toronto.openfile.ca/blog/curator-blog/curated-news/2011/ttc-announces-new-customer-service-efforts-try-not-notice-longer

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