Saturday, July 9, 2011

James: TTC rider who questioned driver has more courage than I do

I’m a big time wuss.
How else to explain my allegiance to the TTC in particular when the daily message delivered is, “Listen buddy, we are doing you a favour here, so shut up and suffer and don’t dare complain.”
If I weren’t such a mouse, on many occasions I would have done exactly what that woman on the Bathurst streetcar is purported to have done — complain to the driver when the streetcar arrived 30 to 40 minutes late.
“Like, why are you late? I’ve been waiting for 40 minutes.”
She refused to leave. A supervisor was summoned. He backed the driver. The passengers backed the woman. Police had to be summoned as other streetcars stacked up down track.
Unless there are other circumstances not reported — maybe the woman had a hidden weapon, a bottle of pepper spray she threatened to use on the driver for his tardiness — one is left befuddled.
Your job, dear TTC, is to get passengers home safely and quickly. If you mess up, expect that some passengers are not going to be happy about it. You the driver, the person on the front line, and therefore, the representative and face of the system that just messed up, should be trained to de-escalate the dispute, not exacerbate it.
If a passenger asks you, loudly and belligerently, why you are late, that’s no reason to throw him off the bus. When the passenger affects safety, stop the vehicle and address the safety concern. But have discretion. And, short of putting yourself and passengers at risk, keep the system moving.
Without choosing sides in the dispute, TTC chair Karen Stintz says the TTC must do a better job training operators to realize they have the ability to make the customer’s day or deliver what happened on Bathurst. Passengers usually understand and calm down “as long as they get the information,” she said.
Whoever is to blame for the Bathurst streetcar dustup, to end up snarling transit traffic, was “ridiculous, really,” Stintz concludes.
Apparently, the TTC is doing commuters a big favour by not closing their door in your face. I did gather courage once to question why a driver left a struggling elderly passenger at the station. He told me to go mind my own business, and I slinked back to my seat. I felt threatened but had no recourse.
Apparently, the driver doesn’t have to pick you, if he doesn’t feel like it. Maybe he feels threatened by your demeanor. Maybe he doesn’t like how you asked for a transfer? Maybe he doesn’t like your tone when you wonder out loud what could possibly have kept him from showing up on schedule. Maybe he will just not move another inch until you get off his bus.
A car pool driver wouldn’t dare behave like that. Cab drivers would welcome such impatient passengers with a warm embrace. “Scream at me, again, and give me your fare!”
I would like to think the transit operators — knowing that he is late (don’t they know this?) would short-circuit a lot of ill-feelings with a simple, “Sorry folks. The previous bus broke down at Sheppard. Thanks for your patience.”
Or, “Am I glad to see you, folks. Never thought I’d make it past that accident at Lawrence.”
Or, “People, I fell asleep at the turnaround. Don’t tell my boss and I’ll get you home lickety-split.”
Joke. I know you guys can see my picture. Please don’t throw me off your bus.

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