Public Forum on TTC Accessible Transit Services - May 10, 2012

On May 10, 2012, the TTC held its fifth annual Forum on Accessible Transit Services in the Queen Elizabeth Exhibit Hall at Exhibition Place. The meeting is held each year, jointly with the TTC and the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT), for us to hear ideas on how to make our services and facilities better for people with disabilities.

The event was attended by approximately 350 people. The evening began with time for personal discussion between TTC customers and senior management from various departments. The main part of the event was the opportunity for customers to speak publicly about their experiences on the system, and to provide feedback, comments and other concerns to members of the TTC Commission, including Chair Karen Stintz, and to members of the TTC’s Senior Management team, including Andy Byford, Chief Executive Officer, and Chris Upfold, Chief Customer Officer. TTC staff also distributed comment forms so that people could provide written comments and suggestions on ways to improve the accessibility and convenience of TTC services.

Approximately 350 suggestions and 100 general comments were received as outlined in the table below. Each comment has been reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) and distributed to the TTC areas and departments responsible for providing accessible service. Below is a summary of the various issues raised during the meeting, including a sampling of actual comments and suggestions. These are accompanied by a summary of the status of the issues as they are currently being dealt with by TTC staff.

Wheel-Trans Operating Procedures

Issue: Booking/phone wait-times

“Reduce the time of waiting for a booking by phone. At times it takes nearly 45 minutes to reach the reservationist.”
“Phone reservation system at Wheel-Trans is inefficient and needs further improvement; I’m not getting through on phones”
“Every time I reserve my rides I get cut off and then I am over an hour reserving it”

Response: Wheel-Trans offers three methods of trip booking, namely, the internet, IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and a live reservationist. Both the internet and IVR have no waiting time to book and confirm trips. Currently, all available resources are dedicated to answering calls in the Reservations section. In addition, we have recently changed the trip booking process to allow customers to book trips up to 7 days in advance in order to smooth out the number of calls over the entire day and reduce customer waiting times. During busy periods, extended waiting times can be avoided by using the internet and IVR.

Issue: Dispatch/Pickup

“Scheduling: One of the things that seems to be an on-going problem is the timing. If a driver is late – and we understand that traffic may hinder timeliness. But if a customer is late for any reason, including a medical reason, the customer seems to be penalised.”
“Better communication between customer services and the driver and customers, e.g., when you tell customer service exactly where to be picked up and then this information is either not passed on or the driver misinterprets this information and you do not get picked up and the driver reports you as a no show”

Response: We understand there may be circumstances where customers may not be ready at their scheduled time. However, in order to serve the maximum number of customers, Operators’ pick-up schedules are very busy, so Operators cannot wait very long for customers without affecting all of the other customers scheduled to be picked up by that vehicle. Customers are encouraged to give themselves some “buffer” time because Wheel-Trans can be late as a result of circumstances beyond our control, just like customers sometimes are. Customers can request that specific information identifying an exact pick-up location be provided to the Operator to assist in making the pick-up as convenient and time-efficient as possible.

Issue: Hours of customer service line

“Extend customer service hours at Wheel-Trans to be similar to conventional service. Wheel-Trans is 8-4 MF, conventional is 7AM – 10PM, 7 days a week.”

Response: There are a number of ways that Wheel-Trans customers can communicate with, and provide comments on, Wheel-Trans services. They can obtain information about the service 24 hours a day by going to www.ttc.ca, and choosing Wheel-Trans. Trip booking, confirmations and cancellations are available at: https://mywheel-trans.ttc.ca/ or by calling 416-397-8000 from 5:00 to 11:00pm, 7 days per week. Trips can also be book through the Reservations Office by calling 416-393-4222 from 7:00am to 11:00pm. In addition, customers who have not been picked up within 30 minutes of their scheduled time, have been no-showed, or need to cancel a trip on the day of service, can call the Priority Line at 416-393-4311. Customer comments can be emailed to wtcs@ttc.ca at any time or by calling 416-393-4111 from 8:00am to 4:00pm Monday to Friday. Wheel Trans customers can also provide comments to the Reservationist Office during the hours of 4:00pm to 11:00pm and on weekends.

Vehicle/Station Design

Issue: Conventional service vehicles design

“The buses need to be made larger on the inside especially at the front entrance, as I have watched a person on a scooter having difficulty getting on the bus and trying to turn around and getting off.”
“More room for walkers and wheelchairs on bus and subway”

Response: TTC staff have worked closely with vehicle manufacturers and ACAT over many years to optimise the layout and space available on TTC vehicles to improve accessibility. The provision of two mobility-device locations on all vehicles is now standard. Moving to 100% low-floor buses and streetcars has created some design challenges, particularly in the design of low-floor buses where the wheel-wells must protrude into the vehicle’s interior space, creating a pinch-point immediately behind the Operator’s area. The space in this area has been optimised as much as possible to accommodate larger mobility devices, but there are some larger mobility devices that cannot fit through the pinch point. TTC and ACAT are working to communicate this limitation to mobility device manufacturers to encourage them to design devices that can be accommodated on conventional low-floor buses.

Issue: Wheel-Trans vehicle design

“Wheel-Trans needs to secure hanging belts that clang and make lots of noise during the ride”
“I don’t like the new buses that have the front seat out because most wheelchairs can’t get in there”
“Better shock absorbers to cushion the jerks that make your back suffer when you have back problems”

Response: Wheel-Trans is currently investigating better methods of installing and using restraining belts. The new vehicles were developed in conjunction with the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) and the current vehicle layout was considered the best use of space. All new vehicles now come with an air ride suspension system to minimize any discomfort for passengers.

Issue: Stations and shelters

“New bus/car shelters are not shelters. High tilted roof no protection, no sides”
“Better tactile floor walkways to entrance booths, to stairways and elevators”
“More Braille labels – on walls at base and top of all stairs/escalators”

Response: The TTC always requests three and four-sided shelters, and the City provides these wherever there is space available on the sidewalk or on platforms. Unfortunately, there are many places in the City where there is not space available to install such shelters, so trade-offs must be made. For example, shelters on streetcar platforms are designed to not restrict the amount of space available to maneuver mobility devices on the platform, but this means that three and four-sided shelters cannot be installed at these locations.

Way-finding and Braille signage to assist people with visual impairments is being improved on a station-by-station basis in conjunction with the TTC’s overall program of retrofitting stations with elevators and accessibility features. There is also an assessment currently underway to implement improved Braille signage at bus terminals.

Training for Operators

“The drivers should be more helpful, and they should be more polite with the customers”
“Need to let drivers know if you need help- because some users are deaf or have sight problems”
“Wheel-trans drivers for sedan taxi and some minivans need to be trained and educated to respect people’s walkers and wheel chairs and make sure that they put seatbelt on passengers on wheel chairs”
“Help lift the walkers because they get heavy”
“Some drivers are not polite, taxi drivers need to be more disciplined”

Response: All TTC Operators and Collectors receive formal training at least every five years through the Operator Recertification Program which includes training on accessibility and sensitivity issues, and on effective communications with customers with disabilities. The training, which was developed in conjunction with ACAT, reflects real-life situations and customer needs. The TTC is committed to take action whenever we become aware that operator behavior falls short of what the training calls for.

All Operators providing Wheel-Trans service receive sensitivity and securement training to enable them to assist customers. This includes both proper mobility aid securement and customer securement. Operators are also audited on proper securement techniques.

Invest in More Service

Issue: More elevators

“More elevators at stations: Coxwell, Woodbine”
“I want more elevators please”

Response: the TTC has been retrofitting subway stations with elevators since 1996 at a rate of 2-to-3 per year and all new stations since that time have been constructed with elevators. Thirty-one stations are now equipped with elevators and other accessible features. We are continuing to equip the remaining 38 stations with elevators. Current approved funding will result in all stations being accessible by 2025.

Issue: More service, less crowded

“Faster waits in the evening and on weekends”
“More streetcars and buses are overcrowded and commuters are impolite”
“Community buses in East-West-North-South Central”
“More Wheel-Trans vehicles would mean less pressure on drivers and less stress and pressure for all”

Response: The TTC responds to overcrowding and requests for additional service to the extent possible within the financial resources available. Our approach is to increase service on the busiest routes first, using service standards that ensure that service is distributed where it is needed the most. Fares do not cover the cost of providing additional TTC and Wheel-Trans service, and the funding provided to the TTC determines how much additional service the TTC can provide.

Customer Information on Conventional Services

“Elevator system at Yonge-Sheppard Station is confusing – not clear what numbers and text are on elevator panel”
“Make it easier to find the elevators in subway stations”
“I want bus stop signage that tells when the bus is arriving”
“The TTC lift line is good in theory but is not updated”
“Bus operators should notify patrons with disabilities that elevators/escalators are not working”
“Include in TTC e-alerts when elevators and escalators are not in service”

Response: Good customer information is important for all customers, but particularly for customers with mobility limitations. The TTC is working to improve overall customer information and to make it easier to get this information across the system. We are implementing Next Vehicle Arrival message signs at stations and shelters, and have made service information available on the web and via text message. Station Information Screens are being installed at subway station entrances, to provide important system and route information.

The TTC “Lift Line” provides information about elevators and escalators which are out-of-service, and is updated every day. As technology improves, we intend to provide better real-time information to customers about elevators and escalators, but this is not yet feasible through the TTC’s communications and alert systems for escalators and elevators.

Boarding Conventional Buses

“Some drivers refuse to manually deploy ramps on buses“
“62 Mortimer, 31 Greenwood bus drivers never deploy the ramp for me and I use a walker”
“Bus ramps do not work”
“I don’t like when a bus driver passes saying, “I’m too full, you’ll have to take the next bus right behind”, especially when the driver lets all able bodied people on first.
“Have recently been using GO Trains, and those with walkers or wheelchairs are allowed to get on first”

Response: Bus operators are trained to deploy ramps on buses, on request, and to assist passengers in mobility devices to board ahead of other passengers. When the automated ramp deployment system is not working, Operators are instructed to deploy the ramp manually. The TTC is committed to take action whenever we become aware that proper procedures are not being followed.

Public Forum on TTC Accessible Transit Services – May 10, 2012
Suggestions and Comments by Category (346 of 450 comments received)

Number of Comments

1.

Improve Operating Procedures

119

a. Conventional Services

14

i. Bus ramps

9

ii. Mobility devices on first

5

b. Wheel-Trans

99

i. Booking/phone wait times

49

ii. Dispatch/pickup

33

iii. Hours of Customer Service Line

3

iv. Policy/Eligibility

14

c. Improve General Safety and Security

6

2. Improve Vehicle/Station Design

60

a. Conventional

52

i. Vehicles

30

ii. Stations

22

b. Wheel-Trans vehicles

8

3. Better Training for Operators

50

a. Conventional

9

b. Wheel-Trans - Buses

8

c. Wheel-Trans - Taxis

33

4. Invest in More Service

34

a. Conventional

31

i. More elevators

16

b. Wheel-Trans

3

5.

Better Information on Conventional Services

31

a. In stations/elevators

10

6. How to Improve the Forum

52