Message from the Executives
By Andy Byford
The following is an editorial by CEO Andy Byford, which originally appeared in the Toronto Star, and on thestar.com, on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
Twelve short months ago, I took over the helm of North America’s third largest transit agency in dramatic circumstances.
Gary Webster’s sudden, involuntary departure and my subsequent elevation to the position of Acting Chief General Manager (now CEO) of the Toronto Transit Commission brought both opportunity and immediate challenge.
I’m under no illusions about the need to improve all aspects of our service. In fact, I have called for a five-year modernization of the TTC, including a culture transformation of its people, processes and equipment. I want the TTC to continue to show that it’s serious about delivering improvements for its customers.
It is in that context that the TTC launches its inaugural customer charter today. It commits the TTC to delivering a reliable and punctual service; clearer and more transparent information when there are delays; continued accessibility upgrades across the network; and a cleaner, safer, more secure transit system.
The charter states that by the second quarter of this year, we will have begun an all-out assault on cleanliness in subway stations — power washing walls, improving lighting and signage, and polishing the floors to a gleam.
And in this quarter, customers will meet our Group Station Managers — the six men and women who are tasked with transforming station management.
A well-run subway station that includes bus and streetcar terminals, fare purchases, and holding local staff to account for performance is fundamental to success in helping the TTC regain its once well-deserved reputation for efficiency.
And with respect to individual bus and streetcar routes, the charter commits that we list the results of each route’s performance on our website, further opening the TTC up and letting everyone see just how we’re doing, holding us to account when we fail.
I want this organization to have the confidence to make the time-bound commitments this Charter makes. To do that, how we interact with customers, including the consistency and quality of our service, must change.
My culture mantra is to challenge mediocrity and to focus on delivering improvement that demonstrates that we are serious about change. A charter binds us, in fact, to a culture of improvement. When I began at the TTC, I was taken aback to find the fundamental elements of business planning were lacking. Now, the TTC has a vision and mission statement, business goals, key performance indicators and an emerging strategic plan to guide what we do: deliver mass public transit efficiently to the people of Toronto.
We have already achieved some quick wins through train and washroom cleanliness, debit and credit capabilities at all Collector booths, and making what we do more transparent and customer-focused.
But there remain issues that need fundamental addressing if we are to sustain this.
The TTC’s base product — the service on the street and on the rails — needs improvement. Our management of unplanned disruptions on the subway, for example, is poor. During an emergency where there is no subway service on part of a line, the entire response we provide requires a fundamental overhaul. This includes clearer information at station locations where crowds build, better control of those crowds with more on-scene staff to guide, direct and answer questions about things like shuttle buses, and where feasible, providing more precise estimates about when service will resume so people can make immediate decisions about their travel.
The TTC, of course, faces capacity and funding constraints that hinder some of our ability to deliver improved, expanded service. I will continue to press the TTC’s case for much-needed sustainable funding.
The Customer Charter unveiled today will be used by our half-billion annual riders to judge us, and to hold me to account. The TTC is a remarkable system, one that Torontonians are rightly passionate about. As the leader of this organization, I too am passionate and look forward to delivering on all of this, and more.