On Thursday, November 15, 2012 the Toronto Transit Commission held its fourth 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 were various TTC senior staff members and Chair Karen Stintz. TTC staff distributed comment cards and promoted participation via Twitter.
 
All tweets and comment cards with contact information were responded to directly. Below is a summary of the various issues raised during the meeting, as well as their responses.

Customer Information

Issues:

Customers raised concerns surrounding signage at our subway stations. One customer requested improved signage at the entrances of stations, so that customers are aware of the accessibility features available, before entering.  Another customer suggested we revisit the possibility of installing the “Stand Right, Walk Left” signs on our escalators.

Response:

The TTC continues to review and upgrade wayfinding signage across the system. Unfortunately, because of the size of the system it is difficult and costly to change every sign, in every station. TTC staff in our wayfinding section is working on a standard for all future TTC signs. Moving forward, this will allow for improved wayfinding signs and improved consistency, including information on accessibility.

With respect to the comment about the “Stand Right, Walk Left” signs, the TTC removed the signs because it was decided that encouraging customers to walk on escalators was not safe and could not be supported / encouraged with official TTC signs.

Customer Service

Issues:

There were some comments about discourteous employees. One customer recounted an incident that involved an unhelpful supervisor. Others raised issues around bus and subway operators leaving ahead of schedule or simply not waiting a few minutes to allow customers to make connections.

Response:

We expect all of our employees to be courteous and helpful at all times. It is disappointing to learn of events where customers describe TTC staff as rude, unhelpful or disrespectful. Customer Service is at the centre of everything we do, and as part of this model, management has made it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated. We are performing 1,000 Customer Satisfaction surveys per quarter, and Mystery Shoppers are patrolling our system regularly, to help us better understand the customer experience and where the TTC needs to improve.

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.

Subway System

Issues:

As usual this area attracted many comments, ranging from inconvenient subway short turns, to a subway relief line. Customers also voiced concerns and suggestions over subway hours, the first scheduled train in the AM arriving late, express trains and a request for better service to the airport.

Response:

We understand the importance of providing a reliable subway service. We also realize that short-turning subway trains is always an inconvenience to our passengers. Typically, the short turning of a subway train is associated with a problem with the actual train itself, an emergency or a service adjustment. We are working at ways to reduce the frequency of these occurrences and have instructed operators to advise customers why the train is being short turned. Subway reliability is taken seriously and we hope to improve in this area significantly over the next few months.

We also listened to speakers who had ideas on how we could better manage the ever growing volume of customers we are carrying. Ideas on how to add some relief to our current level of crowding on our system and how to expand were interesting. We want to assure everyone that we are aware of the need to support a relief line to reduce the pressure on our subway system and make commuting more comfortable.

While we appreciate all the requests for earlier Sunday subway service, the cost of operating the system is such that the lower passenger levels prior to 9 a.m. do not justify an earlier opening. In addition, most maintenance work can only be performed during periods of non-operation, and these hours are necessary to complete the many tasks that keep the subway running efficiently and safely. For the same reasons, we cannot consider 24 hour subway service, as some suggested. Subway systems that do offer 24 hour service, like New York, have two sets of tracks in each direction allowing them to close one for maintenance while working on the other. This is not something the TTC shares.

Lastly, as a result of customer feedback we are improving the commute to and from the airport by adding luggage racks on buses that operate on the 192 Airport Rocket route.

Surface Network (Buses and Streetcars)

Issues:

We received a wide variety of concerns related to our surface routes. Short-turns are always issues that come up. We had several comments about unreliable routes, such as the 29 Dufferin and the 504 King routes. Others voiced concerns over the lack of bus service to a specific part of town, reduced service after rush hour, dedicated lanes for buses, aggressive driving and service disruptions during City events and construction projects.

Response:

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.

As for service reliability on the 29 and 504 routes, like all routes, the most challenging time for our operators to follow schedule is during peak hours. It is even more of a challenge to maintain schedule on busier routes, such as the 29 Dufferin and 504 King routes. We are working with our Supervisors to ensure we are doing everything we can to reduce delays on all routes, at all times of the day.

With respect to ensuring our bus routes are serving every community and operating at a frequency that meets the demand, our Strategy and Service Planning group sets all service at appropriate levels to meet demonstrated passenger demand and, when needed, adjustments are made to best reflect the ridership requirements. They also work towards ensuring our bus routes are servicing areas that benefit most from our service.

Vehicle operation is taken seriously as it relates to the safety of our customers and the public. We monitor the performance of our drivers to ensure they are operating our vehicles safely. For passenger comfort, we also train operators to accelerate and break gently. We ask that if a passenger has concerns with respect to the way an operator is driving, they call our Customer Service Centre to report it.

Lastly, there were concerns raised about bus and subway service during City events and construction projects. The reality is, Toronto is a large City which hosts major events like marathons and charity rides. The TTC does its best to co-operate with the City and, at the same time, provide as much service as possible while diverting around the affected portion of roadway. During construction season this can be a difficult task. We have taken major strides in communicating service changes by increasing avenues of communications and having staff on-site to assist customers with directions, posting YouTube video explainers to help explain to customers what is happening and using Twitter.

Accessibility

Issues:

Escalator and elevator reliability was one of the most talked about issues. One suggestion received was to have replacement escalator parts so that we don’t have to wait for parts, and work can be completed sooner. Another was to provide a telephone line which provides information on the status of elevators.

Bus accessibility features, TR Train hand holds and the status of the Pape Station Modernization Project were other issues raised.

Response:

Escalator and elevator reliability remains a high priority to us. We continue to review maintenance practices and work on ways to reduce down time. The reality is that escalators and elevators are mechanical pieces of equipment, and besides regular maintenance projects, there are a number of other factors that can cause them to fail. As Andy Byford mentioned at the Town Hall, we are doing a number of things to improve. Maintenance crews are now working seven days a week. We have focused on completing specific elevator and escalator projects before starting another. Most importantly, we are working on performing maintenance work at night time, as opposed to day time when the subway is operating.

Currently, customers are able to get the status of our elevators by visiting our website, or calling 416-539-LIFT. We have recently added elevators to our e-alerts service. Customers who select to receive e-alerts on elevators will receive emails when elevators go out of service.
One customer raised the issue of accessible features on our buses and when they should be used. Operators are to accommodate any customer who requests the lowering/ramp feature of a bus, provided the stop is at an accessible bus stop.  The features are on our vehicles to make our system accessible for everyone.

We are pleased to report that we are speaking with Bombardier on how to correct the problem of hand holds on the new TR trains. This was a design flaw of the TR trains and we do not like to see customers holding onto the air conditioning unit, so we are looking at ways to improve this issue. We have already started testing a few ideas on some of the TR trains.

The Pape Station Modernization Project is scheduled to be complete in the 4th quarter of 2013. The station will be accessible with new elevators, sliding doors, tactile surfaces and granite-edged stairs.

Other Issues

Issues:

Some other issues that were raised by customers were: new streetcar compatibility; Transit Enforcement Officers having the right tools to do their job; large strollers blocking customers on buses; and Excess Fare Receipts.

Response:

The new streetcars will be compatible with all of our streetcar tracks across the city. This was important to us because this means we can operate the new streetcar on any one of our routes.
Our Transit Enforcement Officers presence in the system is important to our safety. This year, we will reinvigorate the security model so that we can provide a safer working environment for our employees and a safer travelling environment for our customers.

One customer raised the issue of large strollers on buses blocking passengers as they board and disembark the bus. The issue of strollers on transit was also raised at a recent Commission meeting. Although the TTC supports the use of strollers on the system, as a result of the deputation, we have agreed to study the matter and report back to the Commission with our recommendation.

To close, the Excess Fare Receipt is used by Operators or Collectors whenever a dispute or discrepancy occurs related to the amount of fare paid. For security reasons, TTC employees do not have the authority to refund cash or tickets, so we ask that anytime there is a discrepancy with a fare paid, they use discretion and good judgment and offer a fare receipt. The fare receipt indicates all the relevant information, so that customers can mail or bring the receipt to head office for recovery.