Transit Toronto is sponsored by bus tracker and next vehicle arrivals. TransSee features include vehicle tracking by route or fleet number, schedule adherence, off route vehicles and more advanced features. Works on all mobile devices and on any browser.
Supports Toronto area agencies TTC, GO trains, MiWay, YRT, HSR and GRT, as well as NY MTA, LA metro, SF MUNI, Boston MBTA, and (new) Barrie.

Stinz trains customer-service lens on the TTC

by Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

Karen Stintz isn’t an engineer and knows that being named chair of the Toronto Transit Commission’s board doesn’t make her one.

But she is a customer — a mother who knows what it’s like to wrestle a stroller onto the subway, and a commuter all too familiar with the smells and contortions of a packed rush-hour train.

“I do see myself as a typical transit user. I live near the subway, I work near the subway and I take my kids on transit. We are a one-car family. I am actually the demographic transit needs to reach if we’re going to realize our goals of having it be the preference, if we’re going to reduce our gridlock,” she said.

That’s why the third-term Eglinton-Lawrence city councillor is hanging her reputation on the TTC’s customer service — specifically cleaner stations, improved accessibility, modernized fare payment, washrooms and less crowding.

“(Riders) need to get there on time. They don’t need to find a seat, but they need to know they’re not going to be squished. They need to know they can use the escalators, that it’s going to be a clean and positive experience,” said Stintz, a former provincial health-care bureaucrat, who says any mayoral aspirations aren’t even on the radar right now.

She doesn’t have the swagger of her TTC chair predecessor, Adam Giambrone. Asked why she didn’t pursue another career after studying journalism, Stintz laughs and says she didn’t believe she would ever be very good.

But she is confident in her ability to reform the TTC’s reputation and navigate the political situation in which she finds herself — engineering the transition from the Transit City light rail plan of former mayor David Miller into new Mayor Rob Ford’s subway vision.

Transit City had evolved from seven light rail lines Miller announced in 2007 to four Metrolinx-funded lines, says Stintz.

“We’re now taking a look at the plan and seeing if it can incorporate some of Mayor Ford’s goals. I’m comfortable in what I’ve supported and where I see us moving forward. I think we can get to a plan that delivers on Mayor Ford’s vision and also ensures we build transit during my term,” she said.

The road ahead will be littered with technical jargon, union rules and deeply entrenched TTC traditions.

But she believes the right plan and measurable expectations will overcome those obstacles.

“The TTC is very plan-oriented, so if we in a plan and we say, ‘These are our goals and we’re measuring ourselves against these goals,’ then we have a way of beginning to make that cultural change,” she says.

She will have help — in the near term, from the other eight councillors on the TTC board, notably Peter Milcyzn, the Etobicoke politician who has experience and a commonsense approach to the TTC.

Within a year, though, most of the politicians will be replaced by citizen appointees who can bring some skills Stintz acknowledges the board needs — including expertise in engineering, finance and project management.

Pointing to the customer-service town halls it held this year, Stintz insists there are signs, too, that the powerful transit workers’ union wants to help find a better way forward.

Job descriptions, qualifications and performance expectations all the way through the organization need to be reviewed, she says, using subway collectors as an example. Many are in that job because they are on modified duties, reintegrating into the workforce after an injury or other personal issue.

“We never had outlined an expectation or criteria that asked the operators to go beyond the role to collect fares,” she points out. “So asking them to rethink that position and what’s required in that position is critical to success.”