Amid the hustle and bustle of Bloor-Yonge Station's southbound platform, TTC chair Karen Stintz and CEO Andy Byford launched the commission's first customer charter Thursday afternoon.
The document lays out 31 customer service commitments that the TTC plans to meet this year. They range from the broad ("We will deliver a reliable and punctual streetcar, bus and subway service") to the very specific (providing wifi and cellular service at St. George and Bloor-Yonge stations by the end of the year).
"Today marks another landmark in our quest to improve customer service," Stintz declared to the reporters (and a few bystanders) who assembled at the station's mezzanine level.
Charters are common at public transit systems around the world, and Byford said it was something he wanted to do for Toronto ever since he took the commission's top job one year ago. On Thursday he promised the document would be a tool that riders could use to hold the commission accountable.
"To me it's a statement of intent. It's saying that we're not going to accept second best, we're going to challenge mediocrity," he said. "We are going to try harder. We recognize that you are the people that pay our wages, that we need to do better and we need to deliver better in terms of our customer service."
The charter's targets are divided into five key areas - cleanliness, information, responding to customers, accessibility and modernity, and renewal- with the overall goal of creating "a transit system that makes Toronto proud." Highlights include:
- Delivering "reliable and punctual" service across the system
- Answering all customer service calls within 90 seconds, and responding to 95 per cent of contacts within five days or less
- Clearly communicating information about service disruptions
- Ensuring customers feel safe at stations and on vehicles
- a maintenance and cleaning blitz at all stations, starting in the spring
- beginning a redesign of TTC uniforms
- designing and implementing a new system map
- installing 21 next vehicle screens, and 33 station information screens
- testing wifi and cellular access at Bloor-Yonge and St. George stations by the end of the year
The charter is specific to 2013, and new targets will be set each successive year.
While some transportation commissions, including GO Transit, offer refunds for delays as part of their commitment to riders, Byford said doing so wouldn't make sense for the TTC.
"Some charters do involve refunds," he said, "but that's typically on longer distance services - commuter railways - where if you miss a train there might be a half-hour gap til the next one. I would much rather put our money into tangible improvements."
There is no additional funding attached to the service targets, meaning the goals of the charter will have to be met within the commission's existing budget. The TTC didn't print up physical copies of the charter, citing the environmental impact. But it is available on the commission's website.
Transit expert Steve Munro attended the launch event, and said that while the TTC's commitment to improving their customer's experience is laudable, the most important thing is ensuring service becomes more reliable and less crowded. That would require a funding injection from council.
"Two years in a row the TTC's subsidy has been flatlined from the city," Munro said. "They had to cut service just to balance the budget. Well, you cannot keep doing this. The issue then becomes, will there be advocacy at the commission, at the political level, to put more money into TTC operations?"