An unbelievable scenario is percolating between Toronto, Canada transit riders and the Toronto Transit Commission workers resulting in a social media battle between riders and unionized workers. Add in a sex scandal by the chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission and you have the makings of a customer satisfaction twitstorm.
It started in late 2009 with an announced fare increase, coming in the new year. Toronto transit sells metal tokens as tickets as they have machines that accept the tokens at entrances to minimize staffing requirements. Tokens could be bought in groupings of 5 or 10, that provided a small discount on the cash fare price. With the announcement of a fare increase, well in advance of the date when the increase would become effective, people began hoarding tokens. The Toronto Transit commission aggravated riders by running out of tokens and forcing everyone who didn’t have one to pay a higher cash fare. This did not sit well with consumers.
One consumer, Jason Weiler, armed with a cell phone camera snapped a picture of a transit ticket collector asleep at his post around 9:45 pm. The picture went viral.
Other pictures of sleeping transit workers emerged. Next to surface was a video of a transit worker taking an unscheduled washroom and coffee break leaving passengers fuming on the bus. These went viral and the newspapers picked them up. Then came the service disruptions.
Consumers were clearly dissatisfied with the fare increase especially with sleeping workers and poor customer service.
Reaction by Toronto Transit Authorities
After pressure from the public, the Transit commission produced paper tickets that could be bought in groups of 5 or 10 for a reduced fare. After the date of the price increase, the tickets could still be used but only with a $0.25 extra fare. But they made those tickets expire at the end of January. This caused a shouting match at a ticket booth when a customer couldn’t use the old ticket with any payment.
Toronto Transit Authorities were hard on the affected workers. A harshly worded memo came from the Chief General Manager, Gary Webster He wrote: “We are in the customer service business, but some of the behavior our customers have encountered recently would suggest otherwise” “Our Customers pay a fare and the city provides hundreds of millions of dollars every year to the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). This public transit agency belongs to the very people we serve. “As Chief General Manager, I am ultimately accountable to our customers. As employees, you – and you alone – are accountable for your actions”
Reaction of the Transit Workers
Workers didn’t like the fact that they were now operating under a microscope. Anyone with a cell phone could catch them making a mistake performing their duties.
Workers created a Facebook group ‘ Toronto Transit Operators against public harassment‘. Workers discussed possible work to rule campaigns and commiserated about the lack of respect they were getting from the public, the press and their own management. Then they got the bright idea that they would turn the table on the delinquent riders by capturing footage of them breaking the transit system rules. Photos were posted showing littering in the transit vehicles, graffiti, stains on station walls and riders with their feet on the seats. When the public got wind of this facebook page, things got ugly. That Facebook page is now closed to the public.
City of Toronto Leadership distracted
The next day, a story appeared on the front page of the Toronto Star that the chair of the Toronto Transit Commission on Toronto City Council had an ‘inappropriate’ contact with a woman. Adam Giambrone is also running as a candidate for the Mayor of Toronto. He has a live- in partner who he has introduced to the public. It now appears he also has a relationship on the ‘side’. When he officially announced his candidacy as mayor, he introduced his live in partner. and not unexpectedly, that didn’t sit well with his mistress, who has gone public.
I expect some ‘leadership’ questions to emerge concerning Giambrone: leadership of the organization responsible for investing millions of taxpayers money to support the Toronto transit system and the personal leadership qualities (eg integrity) of someone aspiring to be Mayor of the City of Toronto.
Stay tuned for more.
This is a Twitstorm in the making.
Here are articles (with more pictures) on this subject: