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Transfer dispute leads to a busload of trouble

Joseph Hall

When Stasia Bowen hopped aboard a TTC bus with her two kids on Rathburn Rd. in Etobicoke last spring, she rode right on to the system’s annual top 10 list of passenger complaints.

“I got on with my two children, I paid the three fares and then about two stops later, I realized I hadn’t taken any transfers,” recalls Bowen, a secretary at a Toronto legal firm.

“So I went back to the driver and asked for the transfers and he refused to give them to me. He said I had to get them at point of payment and he really made a big stink about it. Then everything went nuts.”

Over the next half hour or so, Bowen says the simple transfer dispute turned into a war of wills, with the bus driver ordering all the other passengers on to another vehicle and calling both his supervisor and police to settle the issue.

“When the police got there, they took the three transfers, handed them to me and I was on my way,” Bowen says.

“I wrote them (the TTC) a letter about the whole thing.”

Bowen was one of more than 370 TTC passengers who launched official complaints against the system last year over transfer disputes.

And she’s one of dozens of readers who phoned or e-mailed this Corner after last week’s column, which reported the top 10 list of passenger complaints kept by the TTC.

Bowen’s transfer dispute category only rated seventh.

Most of the disgruntled riders contacting The Star last week were passing on stories of rude TTC drivers and collectors, who earned the No. 1 position on the list.

The TTC received more than 2,400 complaints about rude staff last year.

Among those sent to the Corner was this one from Howie Cheung:

“It’s not surprising that rude, discourteous drivers rank right up there. It is for that reason that, since I was a teen and reliant on the TTC to get to school or anywhere I wanted to go, I have been turned off of public transit.

“It’s been over 20 years and I have rarely used the TTC more than once or twice a year. If the transit commission doesn’t get their collective act together then they will see more and more people shy away from public transit.”

There was also this from Willem Simonis:

“Let me add my support to your story about the complaints against TTC staff. I’m a professional, white male, 44, who takes the TTC every day. I find that generally, ticket takers at (subway) booths are boorish old men who get offended when they’re asked to get off their seats or when a customer asks them to repeat anything.

“There have been a few instances where I’ve been shocked by the racism exhibited by TTC staff, to the point where I’ve actually reprimanded the TTC staff when the incident happened in front of me.

“Personally, I buy the monthly TTC pass to avoid any interaction with TTC employees or to avoid seeing their transgressions against other customers. I don’t need to start off my day with their rudeness and surliness. Even when there are no customers in line, I will still use my pass through the automated turnstile.”

Other readers, however, saw two sides to the stories of rudeness, including this from Toronto’s Chris Cole:

“I thought it would be interesting to see a poll done with the drivers of these buses. How many racial slurs must they endure, how many riders are there who try to get away without paying the fare? And these drivers are all the while trying to keep to a very tight schedule despite traffic and weather.

“I would also like to hear the stories of drivers who have been helpful because they were at the right place at the right time. They have been great witnesses for accidents, helped with car fires and even offered to pick up passengers who needed assistance and then not charged them the fare.”

Finally, there’s this from Michelle Cliffe.

“I travel to work via three TTC stations each morning. Every one of those stations has the doors open, and the insides of the stations are freezing. I cannot find any reason for these doors to be open, letting valuable energy out. The massive hydro bills are, I’m sure, charged back to the customer in the end. Not to mention the environmental concerns. Are we that lazy that we cannot stick our hands out to open doors?”




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