Thursday, March 25, 2010

Canada’s Largest Transit System Continues to Suffer a PR Nightmare

Why does Canada’s largest public transit system have a constant customer relations problem?

Is it because the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) chair was tossed out of the mayor’s race during a very public love triangle which went wrong?

Is it because of consistent fare hikes, making it one of the most expensive public transit systems in the world?

Is it because a rider caught a TTC ticket taker sleeping on the job?

No – it is none of those – and all of those reasons in a sense.

The problem is the TTC fails to listen to their customers – and like all companies that lose touch with the people paying for its products and services, eventually that’s going to cost it.

The TTC even announced it was paying thousands of dollars to hire third-party consultants to improve customer relations – showing that at least the TTC isn’t completely unaware of the problem.

Recent polls on several local news organization’s websites sum up the current problems with the TTC. The transit authority recently said it will invest billions of dollars to put up suicide prevention barriers on its subway platforms. They made this decision based on a report which says there were 18 subway suicide attempts last year. At a cost of $10 million per station for the cash strapped transit operator, we’re talking more fare increases, and possible route and service cuts to pay for a handful of crazy people that will probably find some other way to end their lives.

Not that suicide should be taken lightly – anytime a person is in danger of taking their own life, we as a society are obligated to act to prevent such a travesty. However, putting up barriers isn’t going to do anything but cost more money than we have.

Anyone willing to jump in front of an oncoming subway train will simply find another means to end their life. The answer to suicide prevention isn’t removing all possible ways to end one’s life – otherwise we’d all live in plastic bubbles. The way to prevent suicides is through education, communication, therapy, and if need be, hospitalization.

Most people that attempt suicide don’t really want to end their lives, they use it as a wakeup call to those around them that they need help. The few that actually do intend to go through with it are past the point of no return, and there really is nothing we can do for these individuals – regardless of all the barriers we toss in front of them, they will just find another way to harm themselves.

So it should come as no surprise that the surveys on the local news websites show an overwhelming majority of respondents opposed to the TTC spending billions of dollars on suicide prevention barriers.

And in typical TTC fashion, the TTC continues to muddle along its own path, completely oblivious to their customer’s concerns.

Which is why the TTC has an image problem – they just don’t listen.
Maybe the thousands of dollars the transit authority paid for third-party consultants won’t be all for nothing – if those consultants are worth the big bucks they are being paid, they should simply recommend the TTC listen to their customers and act accordingly.

But if the TTC doesn’t listen to its customers, they probably won’t listen to their consultants either. And so their customer relations problems will continue, ridership will decline, and there could be more violence on the locally called “rocket.”

All because Canada’s largest transit system just doesn’t listen.

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