The TTC hasn’t had it easy – public relations wise – over the last few weeks. Even before the the sleeping TTC collector and the break-taking bus driver, they had to contend with the realization there were 31,000 complaints in 2009, a 15% increase over 2008. In response to this spike in general dissatisfaction, the TTC has recruited a customer service panel with private sector advisors in other sectors such as the hotel industry to give them tips on how to improve. This panel is still underway so it remains to be seen exactly how its recommendations will be rolled out.
Many of us are familiar with the frustration involved in using public transit everyday, so few of us are surprised to hear about the high number of complaints. But while most of these are legitimate, we should remember that where there are complaints about service on the TTC, there are compliments. And those compliments are voiced much less often.
So this blog post is about the memorable exceptions. Everyone has at least one or two feel good stories about riding the TTC. Here are a few of mine.
This was years ago. I lived by Bathurst & Lakeshore and took the 511 Bathurst Streetcar on a daily basis. Long before the automated stop announcements were in place, there was one driver who had this route who would call out the names of each stop, as I believe they were required to do. But he had a little twist: he would say the names of the stops– BACKWARDS. That’s right SDRAWKCAB.
So we would pass Tecumseth – but it would be Htesmucet. I think it was this same driver who would announce his own “guide to the city” as we went along. “Toronto Western Hospital is next, Toronto Western Hospital. Let’s hope you don’t have to end up there.”
The Irresistible Pout
While still living lakeside, I was once attempting to catch a southbound streetcar at the corner of College and Spadina. Here the streetcar stop is located on the south side of the intersection. I was waiting at the south east corner of the street and saw the streetcar as it rushed past me. I pouted in the streetcar driver’s general direction, making a little puppy dog face. I was going to miss my ride because the traffic light looked as though it would not change in time for me to cross safely and run to the stop. Surprisingly, the driver happened to catch my sad little face as he passed the intersection and waited for me a whole minute until I could safely cross and run to meet it. When I got on, I thanked him. He replied: “But of course. Who could resist such a pout?”
The Would-Be Pilot
This one is recent, and indeed I wondered whether it was a direct response to the talk around bad customer service. On my new east end route down to Warden Station. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was riding the 68 south to the station. As we turned into the bus bay, the driver announced: “We’ll be arriving shortly at Warden Station. The time is now 1:33pm and it is a beautiful sunny day, temperature, -1 degrees Celsius. Thank you for riding the TTC and have yourselves a wonderful day.”
Tardy for the Train
This was like something out of a movie. I was headed to Union Station to catch a VIA train to Montreal. I was on the subway but there was a technical problem and we were stalled at Rosedale subway station. It became apparent that the issue would not be fixed immediately (perhaps another customer service complaint!) meaning there was little chance I’d make the train on time. I happened to be sitting across from another woman who was looking fairly frantic. It turned out that the reason was that she herself was running late to catch a bus at the Greyhound terminal. She was much worse off than myself since if she missed her bus there would be no other bus for another day or so (she was heading somewhere up north).
In any case, we somehow began talking and decided to abandon the subway car, dash out to the street and share a cab. We split up to see who could flag a cab first — when out of nowhere an off-duty bus going down Yonge street appears, and one of us manages to flag it down! The driver actually took my conspirator to where she needed to go and I believe she made it in time that day.
As for myself, I arrived at Union a few minutes too late for my train. Luckily, there was another one I was able to take only an hour later. In either case, it was nice of the driver to help, and was the fastest I’ve ever flown down Yonge Street!