On Thursday, November 21, 2013 the Toronto Transit Commission held its fifth Town Hall meeting in the Council Chamber at Toronto City Hall. Customers were given the opportunity to meet and greet senior management representatives from various departments. They were also 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 was Chair Karen Stintz. TTC staff distributed comment cards and promoted participation via Twitter.

Below is a summary of the various issues raised during the meeting, as well as the responses.

Customer Information

Issues:

Many customers brought forth comments surrounding the lack of communication about delays. Making real time announcements regarding delays to both surface and subway routes are major concerns. In addition, several comment cards also discussed the growing concern for signage with accessibility information. One customer recounts concerns for visual aids.

Response:

Communicating information to our customers is very important. We understand the significance of keeping all our customers abreast of delays as they occur. It is our initiative to continue improving our communication systems so that information can be passed along to our customers in fast reliable ways.

Customers have several options to keep in touch with TTC. Customers may call our Customer Information line at 416-393-4636 daily, except for Statutory Holidays, between 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Customers can also utilize Twitter by following @TTCnotices, which advises all major delays and upcoming events. Riders can also check “Service Advisories” on the TTC’s website, or subscribe to My TTC e-alerts for real-time email notices for all major subway / RT, bus, and streetcar service disruptions. For more information on TTC Customer Information Initiatives please visit Customer Information Initiatives and Connect with TTC and Stay Informed. We must improve on making customers aware that new features to make their commute easier are available through the TTC directly.

With respect to accessible information, TTC continues to ensure all customers are accommodated. TTC has installed Next Vehicle Arrival System monitors and boards at various locations within subway stations and bus platforms. Should there be a delay or an announcement these monitors indicate “D” for Delay or provide text visual message with instructions.

Customer Service

Issues:

Customers shared their experiences with discourteous employees. One customer recounted an incident that could have been easily avoided with a simple explanation from our bus operator. Others raised issues around operators leaving ahead of schedule or simply not waiting a few minutes.

Response:

It is disappointing to learn of the events experienced by ours customer regarding TTC employees portraying behaviour that is substandard of our expectations. We expect all of our employees to act professional, courteous and helpful at all times. We believe the relationship between our employees and the customers is critical to improving the overall customer experience.

We continue to work on training initiatives for our frontline staff. Additionally we conduct quarterly Customer Satisfaction surveys, and we have Mystery Shoppers on our system regularly, to help us better understand where improvement is needed.

As for our vehicles operating ahead of schedule, bus and subway operators are supposed to adhere to schedules, and leaving ahead of time is not acceptable. Our route supervisors will continue to monitor route performance to ensure everything is being done to deliver reliable service.

Fare Increase

Issue:

One of the most significant concerns customers brought forth was the news of a potential fare increase. These concerns came as no surprise. Several customers mentioned the fact there is a large customer base that will be hard pressed to pay as they receive their fare costs through subsidy.

Response:

Fare increase - The TTC is always very concerned about the impact any fare increase has on its customers. For this reason we are constantly reviewing all aspects of our business to ensure that it is operating in an efficient and budget-conscientious manner. With that said, over the last 20 years, the TTC's workforce has grown by 18%, while service has grown by 27% and ridership by 32%, prompting us to find efficiencies inside the organization, while meeting ridership demand on the frontlines and improving customer amenities, such as improved public washroom, station and vehicle cleanliness, and a new station management model designed to address customer needs.

With ever-increasing ridership, it was important to have a budget passed this year, which allowed us to add service in an effort to meet demand. We understand that fare increases are never popular however; we were able to limit the increase to the rate of inflation, while successfully arguing for an increase in subsidy from the City of Toronto. With that said, even with the recent increase to fares the TTC's operating budget remains $6 million short of being balanced however, we are confident that the $6 million operating budget shortfall can be made up through in-year efficiencies in 2014.

Accessibility

Issues:

Accessibility was also a serious issue that has been brought up time and time again. Customers have requested an increase in accessible vehicles, in particular low-floor vehicles. One customer wanted to know how we are making the stations more accessible while other customers wanted to know the dates in which stations will become fully accessible.

Response:

The TTC is committed to making its services accessible in order to better meet the needs of seniors and people with disabilities in the City of Toronto, and has a systematic program in place to ensure that this is accomplished in a cost-effective and timely manner. More information on Accessible Transit Services Plans.

With regards to vehicle accessibility, we will be introducing accessible low floor streetcars in mid-2014 and the complete replacement is scheduled for 2019. As of 2011, all buses were accessible however this does encompass buses with stairs that have the ramp feature. In recognition of our growing demand we have ordered 153 new clean diesel low floor articulated buses that can accommodate 45 per cent increase in capacity from the previous 40-foot bus. More information can be found in the Accessible Service Transit Plan for 2012.

Surface Network (Buses and Streetcars)

Issue:

Our customers expressed their frustrations and dissatisfaction with regards to delays, vehicle bunching and short-turns. In particular, this session involved a lot of discussion regarding streetcar delays and vehicle bunching.

Response:

It is a challenge every day for all of our operators and route supervisors to operate our surface routes consistently and on-time. Congestion, collisions, and on-street construction are just a few uncontrollable factors our Operators and Route Supervisors face daily. Some tools that we utilize are the Communications and Information System (CIS) and its newer supplement Next Vehicle Arrival System. We continue to have our Senior Management team closely review, monitor and work with Route Supervisors and Operators to ensure everything possible is being done to provide on-time reliable service.

Short-turns –The procedure of short-turning vehicles is designed to restore balance to an entire route. While the immediate inconvenience caused to customers on a short-turn vehicle is recognized, the adjustment often results in a better overall service for more customers over the long term. We will continue to work on our renewed focus on short-turns to ensure it not only works for us, but also the customer. We will continue to work on ways to minimize the number of short-turns in the future by taking into account such factors as, how many short turns have taken place on that day/week, weather conditions, and most importantly, customer numbers. We will also carefully evaluate other options to restore service first. When a short-turn must occur our operators will make informative announcements.

We appreciate the comments that have been provided and we value the feedback. With your help and input we will continue to work on ways to better serve Toronto and move in the direction of improvement.

Other Issues:

Issues:

A number of customers have mentioned their discontent regarding fare payment options. Most fares, except for monthly Metropasses, can only be paid for by cash only. Customers question why we do not offer credit and debit payments for all fare when the equipment is available.

Other asked about PRESTO system implementation, such as time frame and locations of the installation.

Another common concern was vehicle idling. A customer claimed that other transit agencies abide by the 3 minute idling by-law, and the TTC doesn’t. Some customers pointed out that idling is not only bad for the environment, but costly, too.

Response:

Debit and Credit Card Payments for all fares media types.

This area has received a lot of attention over the past few years. We have been working towards making fare payment, for all types of fares, easier and flexible. As part of our 2014 Customer Charter, we have committed to have all our collectors accepting debit or credit cards to buy a wider range of tickets, tokens and passes, by the second quarter. In the same quarter, we plan to have all pas vending machines also accepting credit cards.

PRESTO

Currently TTC has 14 stations that have PRESTO capability. The first PRESTO readers on our surface vehicles will be equipped on the new accessible low floor streetcars that will be in service mid-2014. At this time the slow and progressive role out of PRESTO is underway and will be largely implemented by 2016.

Vehicle Idling

The TTC has regulations and procedures in place to minimize diesel bus idling. Our regulation on this matter subscribes to the City of Toronto’s Idling Control By-law and we expect operators to use their best judgement at all times. Having said that, there are times, such extreme hot or cold weather conditions, where it is important for a bus to be on so that the internal temperature of the bus remains comfortable. We will continue to make a conscious effort to reduce unnecessary idling, and remind our operators to do the same, as we agree that it is bad for the environment and costly, too.

We would like to thank every customer for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend and be part of Toronto Transit Commission’s fifth Town Hall Meeting. We appreciate participation which helps us deliver improvements on fronts, our service reliability and customer satisfaction. We recognize our customers’ interest with the Toronto Transit Commission and together, will accomplish our vision – to be a Transit System that makes Toronto Proud.