Monday, February 08, 2010

To my friends at the TTC

I use crosswalks on Jane just above Bloor a lot. On a brief errand down to Bloor one day a few weeks ago, as I pressed the button, a southbound bus slowed quickly to let me cross. I felt the driver had gone beyond the call in showing respect for pedestrian safety, so I went into the station to thank him. His warm response made my day. I give TTC employees respect, and most of them give it back with a bonus. They do a boring but exacting job and do it well. I cannot even begin to compare the level of simple decency most of us get from TTC employees with the rude, incompetent, and sometimes deadly driving that most of encounter in our cars. As a group, the workers of the TTC have nothing to apologize for.

The few times TTC workers have done a bad job in my presence, I have remembered it. I have bought over twelve transit passes since the transferable pass came out, but I remember the one time I went to buy a pass and a collector treated me like a nuisance, rather than a customer, telling me how to count out my bills and throwing back the extra bill I passed him. A tourism consultant once told me that people tell more of their friends about their bad experiences than their good ones. Certainly, I never took a picture of the driver who went out of his way to respect my safety at the Jane Street crosswalk, and the Sun will never publish such a picture. If we don't tell the stories about the good workers at the TTC, we will never get a true picture of the service.

However good the service, it can always stand improvement. That means respecting the customers who pay the costs of the TTC and want service and courtesy. It means that some workers need to improve their skills, or their habits, or both. Apart from anything else, if the minority of workers who deliver bad service clean up their act, the atmosphere at the TTC should improve for the good workers. That makes the recent news, that some workers at the TTC want to force the public to appreciate them by holding a job action, very hard to understand. The union cannot solve the problem. In fact, part of the public irritation, fair or not, with the few bad workers at the TTC stems from the conviction that the union will protect its members no matter how far below the mark they fall. The transit worker's union could not make a worse mistake than to take action against the rider, mostly fellow workers of theirs, who want decent service. Some TTC workers need to change. The service, while excellent, can use improvement. The union can play an important part in that process. If it does not, then it will simply increase the sense of frustration felt by many of us who have witnessed or experienced bouts of bad service.

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