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Bill of rights would show TTC's sense of fare play

By Joseph Hall
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

A TTC token may soon buy you more than a ride on the subway. It may also purchase you a set of entrenched rights as a passenger.

Next month, Joe Mihevc is to present colleagues on the Toronto Transit Commission with a draft “bill of rights” that will include the promise of courteous service, room-temperature rides and clean vehicles.

“There are just too many complaints and too many issues that we are faced with as commissioners for us not to define the service expectations of our riders and what they can legitimately demand from public transit in Toronto,” Mihevc says. “In a consumer oriented society, this is a way of laying out the expectations that people have of one another.”

As a result of healthy ridership increases, the TTC recently has been faced with more crowded vehicles and platforms and a subsequent rise in the number of passenger complaints it receives.

Crowds wear on people; passengers and drivers can be frayed by their daily transit buffetings.

More people also means more mess and, often, vehicles too packed to pick up waiting passengers.

Mihevc will demand that the TTC, rather than be diminished by its own success, meet these challenges head on by defining proper service levels and guaranteeing that, whenever possible, they are met.

His draft bill, which will be subject to input from riders and TTC staff, includes the right to:

  • Vehicles that are clean inside and out and are kept at room temperature throughout the year.
  • Courteous treatment from TTC employees and polite responses to information requests.
  • An effective complaints procedure in which drivers or ticket takers would carry forms allowing passengers to easily and effectively voice their concerns to system management.
  • Vehicles that run on time and provide a seat for all passengers during off-peak hours.
  • Prompt information on the cause and expected duration of delays and directions to any alternative transportation available.

Mihevc’s bill would also guarantee a smoke-free system, the right to have stops called out, priority seating and boarding assistance for seniors and the disabled and parking lot security.

Finally, it would ensure that transit users would have greater input into proposed route changes and contemporaneous access to system performance information.

“The bill could be used in dealing with complaints, it could be used in doing staff training and it could be used in service planning,” Mihevc says. “I guess the fancy-pantsy term for it would be benchmarking.”

During the often tempestuous term of this current commission, Mihevc has remained a calm and thoughtful voice for nearly 21/2 years.

A man with strong family ties to the TTC - his father was a mechanic there for 35 years - Mihevc has most often put the system’s best interests ahead of the fierce political wrangling that has marked the commission during chair Howard Moscoe’s reign.

The York Eglinton councillor may well see his rights bill as an attempt to forge a civil legacy out of the commission’s otherwise fractious tenure.

The vast majority of Mihevc’s proposals would entail only minimal cost increases for the TTC. And the items that could prove expensive, those dealing with guaranteed service levels, are compatible with TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme’s system expansion plans.

Thus, the bill of rights could prove an affordable and - if taken seriously - reliable way to improve service, passenger morale and the popularity of the city’s transit system.

Civility, efficiency and cleanliness are the fading hallmarks of this city. There is no reason its largest municipal agency should not be a leading force in helping to bring them back into vogue.




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