By PAT WATSON
No one who understands human nature in our hustle-bustle urban centre expects the men and women who make up the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) workforce to be pristine paragons of care and compassion, but for every bus or streetcar driver who greets passengers as they board with a pleasant ‘Good Morning’, there is yet another who acts as if the people using the service are mere objects that clutter their work environment.
Public workers should have to take a personality and stress test to ensure that they have the right temperament and attitude for this kind of work. It cannot be easy to have to encounter and accommodate thousands each day.
Lack of that kind of screening for temperament may explain much of the culture of insensitivity or downright disregard on display within the TTC with respect to those using the service. Too many TTC workers seem unable to cope and effectively communicate with the large population of commuters, who just want to use the service without incident, delay or any other of the many types of unpleasantness that so often become a part of the journey from point A to B.
In one episode that is all too familiar, a growing crowd waits, and waits, and waits for a streetcar, only to see successive vehicles arrive and go out of service. While this continues, TTC workers stand around or chat with each other. No communication occurs between any TTC staff person and the waiting crowd. No TTC person thinks to make it his or her business, in consideration of customer service standards, to inform those waiting in ignorance of the reason for what is happening, or for that matter not happening. A traveller then goes to TTC workers engaged in a casual chat to get information. As it happens, they know the cause of the delay but it is then left to the passenger to inform fellow travellers of the reason of the growing line.
If you are new to this city, be advised that rush hour is prime time for subway breakdowns. Count on it.
Within the unwritten but very obvious TTC frontline workers’ coping mechanism of disregarding passengers, you can witness veterans training the new people with a strong focus on scheduling streetcars and buses. They focus on holding to regulating and maintaining some kind of gap between vehicles and will do so by summarily having people going about their daily business leave vehicles, even when these vehicles are heavily populated. That is the TTC version of improved customer service.
Now we hear that there is a new attempt to improve service so that there will be more subway trains available during rush hour. That will be nice if it works, but if past patterns and current culture hold, there will be much more focus on the almighty scheduling than there will be on looking at the crowds piling up waiting for a public transit vehicle and responding to that situation.
Already, this promise of faster service that is supposed to begin after Thanksgiving comes with the proviso that there will be more emptying of trains to accommodate what again?
A note on a begrudging apology…
That was a good job of calling Rob Ford to account at the mayoral debate hosted by two Jewish organizations on the weekend. When mayoral candidate Ari Goldkind stated that the city cannot have a mayor who uses anti-Semitic slurs, candidate Doug Ford responded with the typical racist response, the equivalent of which would be something like “I’m not racist because I have a Black friend.” To boos from the audience he went on to list his “Jewish doctor, Jewish lawyer, Jewish dentist…” Goldkind would have none of it and told Ford, “I don’t want to hear about your lawyer, your doctor. I want you to say that what your brother said was inexcusable, and it doesn’t get washed under the rug.” Ford eventually used the word “unacceptable” regarding his brother’s use of the slur while he was under the influence of a substance. Regrettably, there was no such calling Rob Ford on the carpet when he participated in a mayoral debate hosted by a Black community organization at the end of August.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.