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TTC service panel barraged by riders at Yonge-Bloor

First of five underground sessions

By Meghan Potkins

The TTC’s customer-service panel went into the belly of the beast yesterday, inadvertently discovering what life as a beleaguered TTC employee might feel like right now.

Steven O’Brien, chair of the TTC service advisory panel, stood on the Bloor-Yonge platform amidst a swirling vortex of passengers, handing out leaflets promoting the panel’s website and occasionally fielding attacks from irate passengers, some of them who mistook volunteer members of the panel for TTC staff.

“If you want to vent, sure, go ahead,” he said after a time. ”If you’ve got ideas, we want them.”

Several passengers said a review of TTC customer service was “long overdue,” and Mr. O’Brien and other panel members received a plethora of feedback: from posting more route maps to bringing back notices on escalators exhorting passengers to “walk on the left and stand on the right.”

Yesterday was the first of five hour-long public information-gathering sessions where the panel will descend into subway stations at Kennedy, Kipling, Finch and Bloor-Yonge to gather information from the public.

“Most of the feedback that we’re getting … is on the negative side,” said panel member Sue Motahedin, whose day job is fielding the complaints of Telus customers at the company’s call centre for “loyalty retention.”

Ms. Motahedin points out that there is a difference in the kind of complaints she hears from people who exclusively take the subway and those that mostly ride buses or street cars because the level of interaction with staff and drivers is different in each case.

Most passengers who stopped to talk to panel members were pleased to have the opportunity to share their frustrations. Some, like Mauro Barillas, a University of Toronto staffer, defended TTC workers.

“When you’re front line, you put up with a lot of things,” Mr. Barillas said. “So I’m sure people get annoyed and irritated.”

Ms. Motahedin said TTC staff has never treated her discourteously, but added, “I think [that] you set the example of how you want to be treated and I think that in Toronto, some of us don’t do that.”

The panel’s findings will be compiled into a report on TTC costumer service this June.