Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To the TTC, with love.

I was lucky enough to be part of the #TTC Customary Advisory Panel’s Communications Round-table that took place this week at the One King West Hotel. Hosted by Julie Tyios and alongside 15 or so very smart and passionate people, it truly was one of the most interesting yet insightful experiences during my 10-months-to-date stay in this beautiful city.

Now it’s no secret how much beef Torontonians have with Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - the public authority that operates buses, streetcars, subways and rapid transit lines in the city. For example, here’s a quick snapshot of a few tweets that came up with a search for the hashtag “#TTCFail”.

So no #TTC subway. How freakin nice. We're now trapped in the city. #TTCFAIL #G20 Idiots.”

“Finally on a 54 west bus and after waiting only 37 minutes for one! Go #ttc go! #ttcfail”

“Pretty sure this is the same bus as yesterday & that is the same McDonalds garbage on the same seat as yesterday. Our tax $ at work #ttcfail”

As you can see, it definitely is one of Toronto’s most complex issues. We discussed personal experiences we’ve all had with the TTC; it’s most crucial problems and then brainstormed about ways to improve the state of the TTC. Problems associated with the TTC seemed to revolve around bus/streetcar delays due to driver slack, lack of communication concerning these route delays, impolite or even outright rude drivers, unclean interiors etc. Below is the summarized version of the ideas discussed:

1) Re-branding the TTC externally as well as from within: Most Torontians just hate the TTC, some without even proper reason. The problem is that people tend to only remember that one bad experience; any normal day that is unremarkable just fades into oblivion. Right now the TTC focuses on good functionality such as making sure you get from A to B in time (something they often fail to as we all know). However, we felt it was time the TTC made an effort to emotionally connect to the customer too, just like any well-loved brand or product does. What if they gave a free ride to every 100th passenger that greeted the driver? Wouldn’t things become much nicer? Creating a change internally is very important too since it’s usually those employees that are not inspired enough to be working for the TTC that end up slacking off or being rude to passengers.

2) Innovative usage of Real Time Information to aid Transit users: It’s 2010 and well, even though those idiotic FIFA officials think otherwise by not using goal-line technology (I supported England if you’re thinking why the anguish!) , the TTC shouldn’t follow suit. Why not draw some inspiration from the YRT / VIVA buses? Each YRT bus-stop has a subway-like electronic display providing information on the next incoming bus that I feel makes a huge difference to transit passengers. People do not like being kept in the dark. Knowing a bus will be 10 minutes late is better than not knowing at all. Other great ideas that came up were the use of Twitter feeds for each route, so that users can just “follow” those specific routes they use daily to get real time updates on their smart-phones about delays or such.

3) Setting levels of expectation: This goes both ways again. TTC should be the Toronto’s Transit Corporation instead of the Toronto Transit Corporation. It’s yours and mine. Each of us should strive to make a difference. If you see McDonalds garbage on the seat next to yours, don’t just tweet about how gross that is, dispose it off as well please! Many observed that gone were the days when people used to offer their seats to the elderly…where is the love people? If you and I start acting as if we do care and aim to set things straight, people will follow, change will take place.

To be honest, after what’s been a long, long time, I offered my seat today to an elderly woman in my crowded 196B bus. And it felt nice. In the words of a legend that passed away just over an year ago,

"I'm starting with the Man in the Mirror,
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”

I believe we can. Please do feel free to add your comments and suggestions about your experiences with the TTC or on how the TTC can be improved. Here's hoping to a great ride forward!


Amy said...

I appreciate your PO very much the picture with the article. Continues to refuel!!

Anonymous said...


Harini said...

I think most people have gripes with their local transit systems :D

In recent times, one of the best rebranding exercises in the "transit" space has been by the LA metro. You should check it out, its pretty cool.