On Thursday, March 29, 2012 the Toronto Transit Commission held its Second Town Hall meeting from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at York University (Keele campus). Customers were given the opportunity to meet and greet senior management representatives from various departments. Furthermore they were provided with the opportunity to speak about their experiences on the system, and to provide feedback, comments and other concerns to the Senior Management team which included Andy Byford, Chief Executive Officer, and Chris Upfold, Chief Customer Officer. Also in attendance were various TTC senior staff members and Chair Karen Stintz who answered questions one-on-one with customers.

TTC staff distributed comment cards and promoted participation via Twitter. There were approximately 60 attendees, 17 comment cards, and various tweets submitted. All relevant comment cards and tweets were responded to directly. Below is a summary of the various issues raised during the meeting, as well as their responses.

Customer Information / Signage

Issues:

Customer communication was an issue that received various comments. Making announcements about surface and subway delays in real time was a concern for many attendants. Some customers would like to have announcements made on streetcars and buses regarding delays along their routes. One comment was made in favour of extending the Next Vehicle Arrival System to all bus and streetcar stops, as is the case at the southwest corner of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West. Other requests were also made to integrate the Next Vehicle Arrival System into our Customer Information Department automated line.

Several comments were made in support of adding more universal signs to our systems; the concern being that there are visitors and tourists who may not be familiar with the TTC logo or signage. Some suggestions were made to follow the European model of signed communication with customers.

Response:

We understand the importance of keeping passengers informed of delays as they happen.  We are working on ways to keep staff informed of delays so that the information can be communicated to the customer.  We are also moving on expanding our communications network to include real time delay information throughout the system. We are working toward expanding the Next Vehicle Arrival System as suggested, although the automated phone service will first have to be upgraded.  For the long-term, we are heading towards helping our customers be self-sufficient, wherein they can pull the information they need from the various modes of communication in order to make decisions.

Pictograms need to be understood by all and they need to also be universal. The challenge is in making sure that they assist customers instead of confusing them further, thus we must ensure a thorough review of any potential pictograms and signs we may use.

Customer Service Incentives

Issues:

Several compliments were received regarding the improvement of TTC customer service initiatives, specifically the commitment to regular Town Hall meetings and the venue it provides for customers to voice their concerns. Most of the comments surrounding this issue were directed towards operators and their demeanour towards customers, specifically friendliness, politeness and courteousness. One comment card suggested a voicemail option on our Customer Service Centre line for after hours calls.

Response:

One of our primary objectives is to ensure our employees are courteous and helpful to all customers.  With customer service at the forefront we are working on different training initiatives with our frontline staff to help give them the tools to improve in this area.  We believe the relationship between our employees and the customers is critical to improving the overall customer experience.

Although there are no immediate plans for a voicemail option for our Customer Service Department at this moment, we do offer other ways of voicing concerns after hours. Through our website you are able to submit a Complaint, Compliment or Suggestion via an online form 24/7 and we will respond within five days. Furthermore our Customer Service hours have been extended to 7:00 am - 10:00 pm every day except statutory holidays. Paralleling these hours we have a twitter feed at @TTChelps where staff answer your questions in real time. We are committed to being available to our customers and expanding our social media and communications network to better serve you.

Fares

Issue:

Comments and questions surrounding fares revolved around discount incentives, Smart Card/Presto system integration, as well as suggestions regarding a one-fare system and the current transfer system. One comment was specific to offering discounts to underprivileged passengers who may not be able to pay the full fare. Another comment was made in favour of fostering a better relationship with GO Transit to facilitate travel for out of town customers.

Response:

We are working towards making the TTC part of an integrated transit system. We agree that we need to foster our relationship with GO Transit, and expand our Presto system, the latter of which is expected to be largely implemented by 2015. We are working towards moving away from tokens and cash fares, and toward a Smart Card (Presto) system. In the future there may be a shift to an open payment system where you may use your credit or your debit card to pay, as this will likely become an international method of payment. There is a lot of work to do in this area in terms of implementing the systems and structures to ensure a successful transition is in place. We must also make sure that all of the various business roles are worked out before implementation to deal with transfer issues, as well as the various types of fares and other options we need time to work on. Our goal is to have a thorough flow of information between systems to create a seamless network of information for our passengers.

The issue of Fare Discounts raises some concerns for our management objectives. We must first work on funding these types of projects. Funding is an issue best solved through the help of City Councillors and the political structure of the municipality of Toronto. Furthermore, thoughts about funding are best shared with City Council, where the fairness and approval of such system can be best assessed.

The complexity of the transfer system is a by-product of a one fare system. Since we are working towards Presto implementation, we expect those issues to resolve themselves as we move away from our current fare structure.

Subway System

Issues:

Most of the subway system issues surrounded the subway extension projects, mainly the extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway line further north into York Region, and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway extension.

Some commuters who live in the GTA would like better travelling options in places such as the city of Markham, and one customer suggested looking into lobbying options to find funding for further subway expansion projects. One comment card advocated the hiring of lobbyists to work with Toronto City Councillors on assessing the various economic and social benefits of expansion.

Other issues raised included passenger courtesy on the subway system, such as passengers laying their feet on seats, as well as seat cleanliness, and the visibility of staff at various stations.

One final issue raised was the possibility of having Wi-Fi at subway stations for customers to access information.

Response:

There is information on this website regarding the Yonge-University-Spadina line extension project under the Yonge Subway Extension page. As for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway extension, there is a dedicated website which includes progress updates as well as affected traffic routes and proposed station layout information at www.spadina.ttc.ca.

Lobbying for federal and provincial funding is a part of our plan to provide customers with better service, at a low cost. We are actively looking for ways to extend the budget to encompass as many facets of improvement as possible.

Subway cleanliness is an initiative which has begun with the addition of litter pickers at the Finch and Kennedy subway stations, as well as the refurbishing of washrooms in the system. Those are initiatives that were cost efficient and, as such, we are using those models to make as many small improvements as possible.

With regards to passenger courtesy, we remind everyone to exercise consideration for fellow riders through posters and announcements on our system. Visibility of staff at our stations is an initiative which will be radically changed. Our first job is to ensure that staff are doing their jobs, and focusing on the customer service aspect of their duties. In the future, we will be looking to change the role of station staff to be more supervisory and active within the entire working of the station. It will take some time to make such changes, but we are confident that we are heading in the right direction.

We are currently looking at Wi-Fi accessibility inside subway stations, including subway platforms. Having cellular and data coverage changes the way customers are able to access information, which changes many things, including the perception of time regarding delays and wait times. It is definitely an initiative which we are considering.

Surface Network (Buses and Streetcars)

Issues:

One of the main issues brought up at the meeting was the inconvenience of surface route bunching. Some routes that were mentioned included the 116 Morningside bus, 86 Scarborough bus, the 25 Don Mills bus, and the 510 Spadina streetcar. There was a serious concern about maintaining the flow of traffic on these and other routes to prevent long wait times, and there were also concerns expressed about vehicles arriving at the same time.

Another issue was the 192 Airport Rocket bus, specifically the request for built in luggage racks and seatbelts to make the ride on the highway more enjoyable.

Other comments and requests included the possibility of increased express bus service, the spacing of bus and streetcar stops, as well as the better management of construction project to ensure that travel times are matched with the regular schedule during diversions.

Response:

Some of the routes mentioned, such as the 25 Don Mills bus, are among the busiest in the city. They pose a great challenge and they are difficult to run, yet we are aware of the issues surrounding bunching and we are continuously working towards resolving them. We are assigning additional surface supervisory staff to help deal with this issue and the minimizing of vehicle bunching.

With reference to installing luggage racks on the buses that operate on the 192 Airport Rocket route, if we customize specific buses it reduces the flexibility of service in terms of our overall fleet. Also, we have to be very careful that we are not disenfranchising passengers who may need to use the accessible seats where the proposed luggage racks would be. However, it is definitely worth looking into the customer aspect of this issue and we will be giving the matter further consideration

We have very specific criteria for Express buses to ensure that we are maximizing our limited resources for our customer base. Our Planning staff conduct regular route reviews where they look for potential express service candidates.  Similarly, there are specific standards for bus/streetcar stops to ensure that we are serving our customers to best effect. Finally maintaining of schedules is always a challenging task during periods of construction/diversion, and staff always examines many options to best mirror existing schedules.     

System Cleanliness

Issues:

Several attendees complimented staff for improving overall system cleanliness. A comment was made about the garbage bags at Kipling Subway Station being left outside for extended periods of time. Another comment was made about some leaks on the roof of Davisville Subway Station.

Response:

We appreciate that customers are noticing our initiatives to provide a better rider experience. We will look into the possibility of placing a dumpster at Kipling station, instead of just dumping the bags outside on the bus bay platform. York Mills had a similar issue, and we found that placing a dumpster there was successful. As for the leaky roof at Davisville station, it's being worked on and should be done this summer.