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Collecting flack

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The TTC doesn’t need to do drug testing on its drivers. For my money, I’d much prefer the Commission spend some time and capital on customer service training for its ticket booth collectors so that someday they may begin to treat customers — especially those who are young, brown or anglophonically-challenged — with a modicum of civility. While there are polite and professional ticket takers, riders for years have had to endure far too much surly or indifferent service from the members of the booth brigade, who always seem to be yakking on the phone or taking their sweet time making change. Isn’t it bad enough that a TTC ticket or token is perhaps the last commodity, other than dope, that can only be purchased with cash? Then there’s the culture of selective suspicion. Every teenager knows this story, and twas ever thus. But there’s no question that many ticket booth personnel save their most callous behaviour for non-English-speaking immigrants or tourists with the temerity to (gasp!) ask for directions. Sometimes, in fact, their behaviour verges on racist.

Exhibit A: I was in a ticket line at the St. George Street end of the St. George subway station last week. A university student was trying to make the automatic turnstile work but was losing the battle. She politely asks the ticket collector for help. He advises her to jostle it some more. She tries, to no avail, and then asks the man, quite reasonably, “Can I just go through?” He kind of rolls his eyes and mutters, “Well, I dunno.” He’s white, middle-aged, looking fed up. Was his reaction influenced by the fact that she had brown skin and wore a headscarf? Indeed, he only let her through when I and several others in line protested on her behalf, but not before interrogating us if we’d witnessed her inserting the token.

Exhibit B: Two TTC employees, also white-middle-aged males, were stationed at one of the portable ticket boxes at Union Station recently, grousing. One complained to the other that he’d just been assigned to Wheel Trans duty. The man pulls a face: “You know, it’s always, ‘Now, go pick up Mrs. Doodledypaddleypoo,'” he says in a mocking Indian accent. This, in a fully audible voice, at the entrance to the TTC’s busiest station. That such conduct continues to be tolerated defies belief.

The mayor is a self-described progressive who “gets” Toronto’s multi-culturalism. So, we’re told, is TTC chair Adam Giambrone. The commission itself services the most ethnically-diverse city in the world, and the face of the new Toronto is rarely more apparent than on the subway. Perhaps they’re all just afraid of taking on the union. In London, Tube attendants give directions and advise on fares without attitude, and they’ll even accept payment with those new fangled contraptions called bank or credit cards. Our tourism industry moans and groans about the homeless but I’d bet that curt and unhelpful replies from TTC personnel do way more to besmirch our reputation.Isn’t it time for the TTC to get serious about this embattled, unhelpful culture? Maybe the commission needs a bit of prodding. A few years back, Spacing asked our readers to submit their favourite streetcar driver stories. Today, we ask that you post your own ticket booth horror tales below.

photo from Toronto Archives



  1. I was heading home after a long day of school at Queen’s Park station. I had a metropass so I quickly went through one of the turnstiles, but I heard a man with a thick accent asking the ticket booth operator for directions. I could understand him quite well – he was wondering how he could get to the queen streetcar. For some reason the operator couldn’t understand and repeated back “Keen?” or “Teen?” and just kept repeating that this was a subway station as if she was talking to a four year old.

    Sadly, it is times like these when I wish many people of Toronto, not just these operators, could get their acts straight and realize that this multiculturalism we rave about to others isn’t just a marketing strategy but actually does exist.

  2. Having had to deal with customer “service” in the Paris Metro, the TTC is a model of victorian civility in comparrisson.

  3. Maybe someone should look into the TTC’s hiring practices? And maybe even their internal pay structure? At my previous jobs, selling clothing for major brands, I was constantly hounded by managers to adhere to customer service practices as outlined in 200+ page manuals. The TTC probably has these same manuals, but possibly they aren’t, and can’t, be enforced, so the few lazy stand-outs take advantage of the situation.

    While, I have also encountered some bad behaviour by ticket collectors, I’ve also encountered the same behaviour from “multi-cultural” employees at corner and other retail stores. I don’t find it fair to cry racism when a “mid-aged white guy” can’t pronounce a foreign name or understand a tough accent.

    A call to rant about bad times on the TTC is far below the standards I’ve come to expect from Spacing.

  4. Rest assured, the culture of suspicion is not selective.

    Consider a sluggish lug in the booth taking their time with counting the change on a 5 or 10 token purchase. During these counting proceedings, the passenger dutifully places a token in the fare box, because what else are they supposed to do?

    Transaction completed and fare paid, the collector will then KNOCKKNOCKKNOCKKNOCKKNOCK on their window, all because they were too busy figuring out how many dimes add up to a dollar to notice the passenger’s compliance.

  5. Amen brother–speak the truth. Very well written.

  6. I don’t know DH, asking for examples is not asking for rants. Torontonians are so nice, we’re always looking to apologize for some reprehensible behavior from TTC staff by saying “remember all the good ones” and ” the good ones are the majority.” That may be the case (and is in my experience), but even “some” bad behavior is too much from people paid well to do a job. This needs to become a political issue, and this is how that happens.

  7. Your first example is shaky (your second is just appalling — I completely agree that’s unacceptable). From your account, there’s absolutely no evidence he behaved the way he did towards her because of her appearance; many collectors are very suspicious of transit riders.

    Suspecting him because of HIS appearance — white, middle-aged — is as discriminatory as his alleged prejudice.

    I’m not sure I feel drug tests are necessary, but that is potentially an issue of safety, which will always, always trump concerns for courtesy and civility. It’s a rather bizarre way to begin such a post.

  8. Coxwell Station, May 5, the first day the TTC was handing out refunds for April Metropasses. The lady in the booth was utterly rude to the three people in front of me, each of whom had questions about how the refund worked and what to do about the federal tax refunds. To the third person, directly in front of me, she said “it’s listed on the notice. Can’t you read?”. At that point, I was on the verge of telling her off but decided to avoid it altogether.

    Yes, there was a notice posted at the entrance to the booth, but TTC notices are not always coherent and people will sometimes have questions. This booth collector behaved in such a rude and innapropriate manner, that I truly wondered if she knew that one of her main job functions is to provide information and answer questions! Indeed, as soon as I got my refund and passed through, she was back on the phone chatting away on what was clearly a non-business related call. I guess she was upset because we were actually making her work…

    I was recently in NYC and used the subways there extensively. I must say that in general, booth collectors there are far more polite and helpful than their counterparts here in Toronto. And that’s sad, quite frankly, because the NYC system carries five times the numberof riders than ours does.

  9. I’ve got three particularly bad stories in mind but the one that stands out above all the others was the collector at the back enterance of St. Clair Station who left his booth unattended to use the pay phone and smoke a cigarette. The kicker? That payphone was inside the station. And I don’t mean on the bus platform, I mean the collector was smoking a cigarette indoors. And to make matters even worse, there was a woman with a child in a stroller waiting in that same area for her bus to come so not only was this person smoking indoors, he was exposing the lungs of a baby to second hand smoke.

    I was in complete disbelief at what I’d seen. I stood there to wait for the collector to finish his phone call so I could get his employee number. When he noticed me standing there and looking at him, he interrupted his conversation to ask what I needed. When I told him I needed his employee number to report his smoking in the station he refused to provide it. In any event, I called the TTC to report him. I have no idea what happened to him but I haven’t seen him at St. Clair since.

    So I see a few lessons here: first, my bad experiences represent a tiny fraction of the trips I make so most TTC employees do an admirable job in my mind; second, there are absolutely bad apples; and third, if you call TTC to report the bad apples, they take it seriously and apply appropriate discipline in most cases.

  10. I’ve got better service with my horrible Spanish with the ticket agents in the Mexico City Metro, in a city not well known for its hospitality. However, it’s the bad experiences that people have that sticks in their minds, and if 10-20 percent of the collectors are rude, they make everyone look bad.

    For example, the collector at the Southbound Queen Station, the first day of the refund, was very friendly, making sure I had a photocopy of the pass before taking it, and cheerfully provided me with the refund. There’s exceptions.

    Here’s a hint: signing up for the Metropass Discount Plan lets you not deal with them at all, as the passes come in the mail. The people at the Davisville Office customer service are really nice.

    The best service I had was in Chicago and Washington, where thanks to smartcards and stored-value paper tickets, most ticketing is self-service, and the collectors have turned into station attendants, and very approachable if you ask questions, or come up to you if you look you are having difficulty with the self-service machines.

    That, I hope, will come here with the TTC’s adoption of the GTA smartcard.

    The best operators I’ve come across are in San Francisco, particularly on the cable cars and PCCs, who seem to genuinely like their jobs and are great tourist ambassadors.

  11. I once had a collector attempt to provide change for my token purchases with a foreign coin. At first I thought that this was simply a mistake, and drew his attention to it.

    But he refused to replace it with proper Canadian money! It took 10 minutes of arguing, with me threatening to call the TTC to complain to his supervisor, and a huge line building up behind me, before the man would finally give me proper change.


    Both the coin and the TTC collector appeared to be from the Caribean. The coin was about the size of a Canadian quarter and had the image of the Queen on one side, but was definitely not Canadian money.

    It does occur to me that if this gentleman spends all day substituting relatively worthless foreign coins for Canadian money, he may have made quite a fortune defrauding the public by the end of the day.

  12. Slight change of subject. I noticed two things in the archival B/W TTC photo in the posting: the good state of repair and cleanliness of the station, and the wonderful lack of all kinds of printed and handwritten signs on the fare collector’s booth, as well as the absence of the poorly designed & messily installed extra equipment inside the booth. Overall, a utilitarian but well designed environment.

    Why is it that Torontonians today find that kind of sixties elegant & simple modernistic design so wrong, and we tolerate such a decline in the design & maintenance standards of the TTC? Or accept one-off theme-parks like the Museum Station, which actually just needed a thorough renovation to bring it back to pristine state its designers intended?

  13. Corresponding with John (if I may call him that) jogged my memory of one particularly bad incident. I was sitting in a 501 streetcar at Queen Station, while the daytime crowd finished boarding. The doors were still open as the traffic light changed; one man, on crutches, was making his way onto the road. He was moving more slowly than a completely able-bodied passenger, but he was moving robustly for a broken foot. He was probably eight or ten seconds away (although I know in thick traffic, even seconds can seem like an eternity when you want to get home).

    In a moment, the driver either became too impatient or felt pressured to keep the traffic moving. For whatever reason, she decided she couldn’t wait any longer and shut the doors on him. He roared out in surprise and anger, but couldn’t do anything except be left behind.

    As she drove away, I heard her mutter under her breath, “I can’t wait forever, buddy.” I doubt she would have had the guts to say that to his face — she obviously could just barely say it in the presence of all the passengers who were staring at her.

    I understood her responsibility to not dawdle, but it was very clear that nobody — NOBODY — would have blamed her to wait for someone who needs to be accommodated.

  14. My experience with collectors?

    Never, ever attempt to pay using pennies. Not even one penny. Shit will rain down upon you.

  15. re: comment from Kevin Love

    I had a similar experience at College station last year. I bought tokens from the machine near the ticket booth. The machine mistakenly dispensed a Euro. Looked kinda like a twoonie, but definitely the wrong currency. I told the ticket booth operator about the mistake and asked for a Canadian coin. Naturally, he refused. He said he had to ‘balance his till’. Couldn’t help. He waved me away and suggested I call a phone number. Customer Service, I guess. So, I’m out a couple of bucks, still don’t have my token and am left to find the phone number myself. Not wishing to keep people waiting, I leave.

    I submitted a complaint to TTC but naturally haven’t heard a word from them in about a year. I’ve given up waiting for an explanation – or apology for the operator’s rude behaviour. Seems balancing their tills is more important than correcting a mistake they’re responsible for creating.

    Don’t get me started on that two-day strike. Seems they were too delicate to man the picket lines. Seems you can go on strike these days by stealth.

  16. To Anonymous: For what it’s worth, most people I’ve talked to appalled that so much money was spent on the Museum Station when basic maintenance and cleanliness is so appalling throughout the system.

    To Kevin: If you are serious concerning your allegations about this collector, I hope (for the sake of other passengers) that you did report your concerns to the TTC

  17. Don’t know if it was the same collector but the female collector at Coxwell who took my Metropass was very polite and enquired as to whether I had kept a photocopy. That was on May 30 though.

    I think the TTC needs secret shoppers but since Bob Kinnear won’t countenance drug testing he’s hardly going to go for that so private citizens are going to have to use forums like Spacing to do it for them.

    Maybe we need a TTC equivalent of – “”?

  18. Hey Jacob: I’ve heard that before and it’s something that really bothers me. A penny is a valid form of Canadian currency and as far as I am aware, every merchant who accepts cash in this country is obligated to accept pennies. Kind of makes me want to buy some tokens and pay with as many pennies as possible. I think I just might do that…

  19. Also about the picture in the article, is it St. George Station by the Bedford entrance?

  20. I am a white guy in mid-thirties and I get treated like crap about 6 or 7 out of 10 times. Interestingly, the other 3-4 times the TTC employees are extremely nice and helpful – seems like there’s happy medium: either rude or very polite. What gives?

  21. I was waiting for a bus at Ossington Station one Friday night and two young girls, obviously dressed to go out, asked the collector what time the last bus was leaving the station. The guy shrugged his shoulders and told them he didn’t know and suggested that they to check the posts inside the station. However, neither of girls was planning on entering the station at that time and they left the station without any information and after exchanging some choice words with the collector both left unhappy.

    I don’t see why something as simple as posting the bus route schedules for a particular station in the booth for the collector to look at is so hard so simple question likes these can be answered so no one gets pissed off.

  22. The TTC doesn’t need to do drug testing on its drivers.

    I hate taking an illiberal line in these matters, John, but I disagree. TTC drivers have the lives and health of their passengers, and other drivers on the road, in their hands. It sucks to be singled out, but if long-haul truck drivers need to pass drug and alcohol tests, then TTC drivers should as well. The public safety interest in the sobriety of public transit drivers is too strong and too compelling.

    As to your other points, agreed! Civility is the minimum to be expected of public employees, just as it for us in the private sector.

    In London, Tube attendants give directions and advise on fares without attitude, and they’ll even accept payment with those new fangled contraptions called bank or credit cards.

    Yes please, but can’t they please do this with machines? Leave the lines for those of us who want to pay cash. Nitwits who pay for a $2.75 ticket with an ATM card shouldn’t be holding up the line for four minutes while they try to remember their PIN…

  23. Goldsbie: A lot of good it does them!

    But more to the point, I was once asked to concede to random breathilizer tests on my job (drink-slinger, no kidding).

    The idea got ditched at my work a long time ago, but the idea behind it was direct correlation with customer service. You don’t show up wasted, you take care of those who are.

    The function of a TTC worker is exponentially more important a service than pouring the good public too many shooters. For the drivers, at least, I’d like to know that they’ve passed those tests with flying colours, if they’re ever to be implemented.

    A bad example of constantly poor driving is at the bottom of the Lansdowne route at Queen. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to jump out of the way of buses overshooting on the sidewalk.

    I once had to help an older woman out of the way at the same intersection. She looked terrified. Fully on the sidewalk, she jumped back, stumbled, I caught her arm (she had a cane) and then helped her across the street. She was shaking the entire time.

    I’ve encountered all kinds in the collector booths but the safety of the driving is just as important.

  24. I can’t help but notice in the photo of the booth above that there isn’t single notice or card inside the booth. Booths in stations today look like the windows of a typical convenience store.

    Since moving to Oakville a month ago I haven’t used the TTC at all. And I don’t miss it one bit.

  25. Matts,

    I am also a white guy in my mid-40s and have to endure a fair amount of surly behaviour. I figure, however, that I get a good deal less flak than the rest of humanity (or that subset which uses the TTC). I remain convinced that if a 50-something white man in a nice suit had been having trouble w/ the turnstile at St. George and then asked to go thru, the collector wouldn’t have hesitated.

  26. My one and only poor experience was definitely one to remember.

    My girlfriend and I were running late to catch a movie at the Varsity theatre. We arrived at Queen station and approached the booth to purchase tokens. He took his sweet ass time of course and as he was handing them over the train arrived. My girlfriend qucikly grabbed them, inserted two tokens and rushed through to jump on the train. I attempted to do the same but he locked the gate and claimed that I had not paid. I pointed over to her and said she put in two tokens, but by this time she had already got on the train thinking I was right behind her. The doors closed and the train departed. He had already dropped the tokens and also claimed that we weren’t together anyway. While I can’t be certain, it perhaps something to do with the fact that my girlfriend is brown skinned and I am white; he was also Indian if you are curious.

    I was fuming at this point. The funny thing was that as I was screaming at him, a few others sympathized with me and said “this guy does shit like this all the time.” I had no cash on me and had go upstairs to a bank machine to purchase more tokens. My girlfriend got off at Bloor and waited for me. When I arrived I told her what happened and she insisted we go back to speak to him. We’d now missed the start of the movie anyway. When we confronted him, he still refused to concede! He said that if she did insert two tokens, it is HER responsibility to adivse him of this to avoid the confusion!

    In any case, I did complain to the TTC. I received a phone call, they apologized and sent me 4 tokens in the mail. I haven’t seen him there since, I suspect my complaint wasn’t the first.

  27. John – I imagine this response will be viewed by some with scepticism, given my current position as director of corporate communications for the TTC. But allow me to respond, as best I can, to your post.

    Racism is intolerable. And such conduct is *not* tolerated by this organization. An employee of the TTC who exhibits such behaviour will be dealt with in the harshest terms permissible. If a customer of ours feels they have been treated with anything less than the dignity and respect they deserve, I urge them to contact the TTC and file a complaint. Complaints are investigated and followed through on. That’s a fact. Allegations, such as racism, are treated with the seriousness they deserve.

    I’m glad that you pointed out that there are “polite and professional ticket takers,” too. Many of our drivers also receive wonderful commendations from the public for courtesy, customer service, and going above and beyond the call.

    Here’s a small, personal, anecdote. I work at head office (Yonge and Davisville), and occasionally stroll down Yonge Street at lunch time. Small children stand on the footbridge over the tracks, just south of the station, waving at subway trains as they pass below. Without fail, every subway operator I’ve witnessed toots his or her horn “hello” back to the children. The children, and their caregivers, are thrilled. It never fails to make me smile.

    Common courtesy and respect for the public is a basic standard of customer service at the TTC. If we are failing to achieve that standard, I urge our customers to let us know.

    Our operators and collectors – our frontline staff – are proud to work for this organization and, by extension, the people of Toronto.

    Brad Ross

  28. Brad, some of “[the TTC]operators and collectors… are proud to work for this organization and, by extension, the people of Toronto.” If it were the vast majority, there wouldn’t be nearly thirty responses to this post so quickly.

    Everyone, please thank the employees who do their jobs well, because I wouldn’t trade any of them their jobs, even though I get paid about the same as many. That said, the sizable minority of front line workers who behave like %$*&, and their unions, deserve everything short of assault.

  29. Looking forward to reading this entry and the comments more carefully. After an initial scan, I have a wee question.

    How many booths have fully functioning microphones so both parties may hear each other?

  30. It’s good to see a TTC representative respond to put this into perspective. I pointed out in my post that my poor experience was a single occasion. Outside of that the worst I’ve seen is apathy in the toll booths.

    And I feel that the TTC responded appropriately by apologizing and refunding my fare.

    That said, it still seems that TTC management is constantly fighting a losing battle against the union. I don’t want this to sound like an anti-union rant because I do see value in unions and understand their role. However, it seems that the TTC union puts up a fight any time anything is suggested that actually benefits their customers. Whether it is drug/alcohol testing or service training the union needs to start demonstrating that they are in partnership in management to sustain and grow the business.

    Even the uber-powerful auto worker union has started to recognize this in their negotiations. I suppose the bad state of the North American auto industry forced their hand. Does the same need to happen with the transit union? Does ridership need to drop before the union decides to respect the ridership?

  31. I remember observing a driver mocking a woman with disgust because pronounced Queens Quay, Queens “Kway”.

    It was so very mean.

  32. seems like there’s happy medium: either rude or very polite. What gives?

    Unfortunately, dealing with the general public does this to you. You either cope well or you cope terribly. Some people will always treat you as beneath them (because you are a lowly customer service drone/retail salesperson/whatever) but you still have to put on a happy face and go at it.

    I was waiting for a bus at Ossington Station one Friday night and two young girls, obviously dressed to go out, asked the collector what time the last bus was leaving the station. The guy shrugged his shoulders and told them he didn’t know and suggested that they to check the posts inside the station. However, neither of girls was planning on entering the station at that time and they left the station without any information and after exchanging some choice words with the collector both left unhappy.

    You suggested giving the bus schedules to the collectors, but there’s an even simpler fix. I’ve always believed (I do Retail) that “I dont know” is never the answer — you should always at least have a suggestion for where they can find help. In this case the collector would just need to tell the girls that he didn’t have that information, but they should use one of the pay phones near the station entrance to call 416-393-INFO and they could hear the bus schedule on the phone.

  33. I think it’s great that someone from the TTC took the time to respond and his response, though seemingly drawn from the “Responses to Customers Playbook”, does clearly outline a logical “official position” for the TTC.

    The problem with an “official position” is that all it does is outline the legally mandated policy of an organization. Of course it’s the TTC’s policy to deal with racist employees in the “harshest terms possible”. The Commission is compelled by law (not to mention liability) to expel the obviously racist.

    What Mr. Ross must gloss over (he is in corporate communications, after all) is that while the TTC has a good plan for dealing with offenders, it seems to lack a program for identifying them in the first place. Add to that a disenfranchised workforce inclined to protect it’s own and you have a system where the worst employees can thrive.

    The TTC and especially it’s workforce have a terrible PR problem. One that I’m sure Mr. Ross deals with daily. With 2 questionable strikes in recent memory, a culture of mistrust and adversarialism is building between public and TTC operators and collectors. Telling us that subway drivers, who never have to interact with the public, can be friendly from afar doesn’t inspire the kind of love they need to build some bridges.

    We need more from the management of the TTC than sunny sentiments to assure us that the service is actually here to SERVE US. I’m tired of feeling like a fuckin’ inconvenience on a service I support.

  34. I think the issue of polite versus rude collectors is this, some people really like the work they do, and some don’t.

    This isn’t limited to the TTC, we have all had customer service folks who, you want to ask, “do you like your job”, because you can tell they don’t.

  35. I would prefer to share my experience about last Sunday. There was an interruption of service on the Spadina Car. (Derailent in the circle north of College). When the streetcar finally came, the driver explained to the waiting passengers that his was a King car and he didn’t know when the next Union car would come along because the diversion (to Bathurst Station) was causing delays. However, he repeatedly, and again at King and Charlotte, explained how to get to Union via the 504 and the subway. This operator clearly cared about the public. My anecdotal experience is that this is the norm for TTC employees. The ignorant and the racist should not be tolerated. However, I do not believe that this is the norm.

  36. Glad Sean mentioned the Paris Metro/RER. Great (a dream if you’re from Toronto) system in terms of coverage (though horrifically crowded when you have to get to work in the morning), but man, you won’t believe how difficult it would be to be a young north African/Arab in that system, constantly being asked to show your passes.

  37. One thing I noticed many years ago with the introduction of Metropass swipe turnstiles was that there was no longer a need for regulars like me to interact with the collector. I can enter my local station without even passing near the booth, and I no longer know from day to day who the regulars are at that location.

    To what extent has the automation of fare collection isolated collectors from many of the travelling public, especially those who would come to know them? We already have isolated subway personnel, and soon will have surface operators in their own cocooned world.

    I can’t help thinking this is one of many factors contributing to the situation.

  38. I am not surprised by the many stories of rude TTC employee behaviour. I have a lot of bad experiences too, but in my hopeful ‘Canadian polite’ way, I only report the really bad ones and strive to report the fewer good experiences.

    Did you know that reporting a COMPLIMENT is as easy as emailing or phoning the TTC? Someone (usually sounding bored) from customer service calls to thank you (and probably to make sure it’s a genuine rider who complimented). Drivers tell me it goes on their record, but because of unions, they get no incentive other than a nice letter on file.

    If you report a complaint (like the ‘Cant you READ?’ response to a person asking if the bus went to a certain stop, you have to jump through hoops of writing a letter, signing, describing the incident in detail, advising them of witnesses, etc
    Then you hear NOTHING back at all. Some drivers tell me that if they get a complaint, they are called into the office and given a ‘slap on the wrist’ but it holds no threat to them in any way whatsoever.

    Customer service is incompatible with uinions.

  39. oops… I did want to add that I find streetcar drivers generally friendlier and polite than any other positions at the TTC.

    Before the TTC had spent over $800,000 fighting the blind lawyer who successfully took them to court (TWICE !) to force the TTC to call out stops… which lead to the impersonal computerised display and voiceovers… there was a driver on the College car who was like a tour bus operator, saying things like… “And if you look to your left folks, we’re coming up to Kensington Market – worth a stroll, I recommend the Cheese Shop for bargains”. I miss that guy.

    I wonder – do the antisocial guys work the subways, the normally rude guys the buses, and the nicer ones get the streetcars? Is it the people or the conditions?

    Somebody should do a study…

  40. To what extent has the automation of fare collection isolated collectors from many of the travelling public, especially those who would come to know them? We already have isolated subway personnel, and soon will have surface operators in their own cocooned world.

    This is precisely the reason why I am strongly opposed to the plastic shields that will go into surface vehicles. I know most of the drivers on my route that arrive at my stop between 7:50 and 8:15 – many will recognize me as well, if I’m running to a bus across the street at the near-side stop, many will stop if they can, and I like to think this is because I’ll show my appreciation. I’ve rode buses in many cities that are supposedly more dangerous than Toronto (and do have higher crime rates) – Washington, Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Vancouver, Buffalo, Boston, even Detroit, and no one else has these shields, but most have cameras everywhere.

    And since the shields will be “optional”, there will be a perceived difference between those operators who leave them open, and those who lock themselves in (I expect differences in use between routes like 83 Rosedale or 11 Bayview versus 35 Jane). Clerks at paces like 7-Eleven have much higher risk of serious assault, but are paid much less, have no union behind them and don’t get protective glass. But the stores are full of cameras.

    I say install the cameras and speed that up. But forget the shields. There are too many customer service issues, and serves as a unflattering image to customers, particularly as I expect there will be a visible differences in their use, and cut passengers off, discouraging them to ask for assistance.

  41. OK.. being a daily TTC rider.. here’s my rant short and sweet:

    – I’ve seen and heard so much inappropriate comments by TTC ticket booth people (and drivers), it sickens me.. they need to be trained how to properly treat customers (the bad ones really need to STOP with the rascism and stereotypes.. ENOUGH is ENOUGH)

    – I actually agree with drug tests.. because the riders health and lives are at stake when riding their subways/buses

    – TTC really needs to invest in coin counters.. all buses in other cities like Mississauga, Brampton, etc. have them… this would save time from the collector having to count coins, and also prevents people from getting away with paying a penny to ride the the TTC (i’ve seen this many times).. lots of times the collectors don’t even look at the coin box

    – It’s time for the TTC to grow up and look at how other countries provide excellent service… these people are getting paid way too much for providing crappy service. We need…
    – cleaner stations, subways, and buses
    – friendlier and properly trained staff
    – coin counters to speed up the collecting process and prevent money-loss from ppl sneaking less money
    – more reliable service
    – and needs to be an essential service

  42. Everyone’s quick to blame the union for bad behaviour. I’d suggest this is shooting the messenger. Why do people treat others badly? Because they’re pissed off. Why are they pissed off? They’re treated badly themselves. What do workers do when they’re treated badly? They form a union.

    No one talks about the working conditions TTC employees have to endure – how many of you would be a bus or streetcar driver? Racist workers should be disciplined and educated, but let’s remember that anti-racism came to the workplace through union action over contract language and accessibility. It wasn’t management largesse.

    The TTC is a public service. When its workers are nasty, it means the public service is poorly managed and under-funded. Blame government and management, not the workers themselves.

  43. Steve,

    While you are correct in saying that the physical isolation and growing use of swipe MeroPasses has contributed to the growing alientation between riders and booth staff, I don’t think we can afford to live in the past. Riders function in a world with online banking, electronic cash transfers, and all types of swipe or RFID cards. Every Starbucks uses reloadable cash cards, but not the TTC. So inside the booth, life goes on as if it were 1970 –both technologically and, dare I say, ethnically and demographically. All sorts of other service organizations (banks, retailers, government departments, etc.) have found ways to allow their frontline employees to adapt to social and technological change. But the TTC has such a hidebound culture — both at the management level and within the union — that nothing ever changes. Perhaps that’s why so many of them are so gruff. They’re dinosaurs and they know it. The world has moved on, yet they continue to glare out at us from behind those heavy cash boxes, rapping angrily on the window at the city as it passes through the turnstiles. Maybe they’re trying to escape…

  44. I’ve learned the rules of monthly pass buying and try to stick to them. State loudly, slowly and clearly the number, the month, and “pass”. ONE JUNE PASS, PLEASE. If you try any other version, it may cause delays and glares. If you say “One pass please” (& it’s June 1) or “June pass, please”, you may be asked to explain.

    Avoid buying tokens or asking about token options — I forgot how unpleasant it can be when I skipped the April pass due to some out of town travel. Choose phone queries over in-person queries if you need connections or schedule info. You can expect hostility if you go with any other options.

    But the worst TTC story I have involves a driver, not a booth collector. One nice and icy morning of February I ran to catch my 40 bus which was standing at its intersection stop with doors open waiting for the green light. As I was trying to step into the bus, my other foot slipped on the ice below and I found myself 2/3 under the bus, holding on to the bus floor with my hands. As I was trying to scramble from under the bus, get myself into a seating position and then get up, the driver — and this took minutes — sat in his seat indifferently, looking at me, then looking around, beging generally bored by the spectacle… Nor did he say a word. Finally one of the passenges noticed a person struggling under the bus, and came to help me… The leg injury I ended up with was nothing compared to the steely indifference of that driver.

  45. There’s lots wrong with the TTC. Many problems such as PS systems that are too loud/low volume/much distortion existed in the 1960s.

    So too the problems is the ticket folks at the stations behind glass – can’t hear them. They have trouble hearing me. This too existed in the early days….

    Hey TTC, this is 2008. Fix it.

  46. Lydia — did you ever formally report that incident? If so, was there a response?

  47. I’ve never seen someone under a bus, but I’ve definitely witnessed young mothers or caregivers struggle mightily to hoist a stroller into a streetcar while the driver looks on indifferently. Once in a while, to be fair, they will get out and help, and often passengers will step up. But you also see those situations where no one’s giving a hand and the driver doesn’t budge.

  48. No doubt there are cases where the employees could better interact and serve their customers. I will take the other side of this discussion and note the many occasions where I have seen passengers heap abuse on employees.

    Queen Street subway entrance oh about 2 weeks ago – a customer waves their pass too quickly for the booth attendant to see. She calls the customer back to check and the customer rewards her with a chorus of swearing and cussing. Oh and yes, the fare collector was a non-white person as was the cussing customer.

    Queen Street 501 streetcar – passenger having severe anxiety attack and was nervous, looking around, speaking loudly and looked like she was going to faint. Driver offers to get an ambulance or at least help and passenger ups the volume of her commentary – eventually she gets off the streetcar.

    Spadina line southbound – TTC employee enters first train car, sees my kids are enjoying looking down the line and takes the time to explain the signals, track crossovers, speed of the train and other interesting facts.

    Yep, sure everyone could do better no doubt – remember though it is a two way street and I am sure there are numerous instances of inappropriate customer behaviour and excellent staff behaviour.

  49. I have had two incidents over the past month with the same ticket booth woman (Queen St. North Bound).
    First incident, I purchased tokens and one of the bills ($5) happened to be partially ripped. Not all the way through, just a tear halfway down. She picks up the $5 (I apologize, I had not noticed it), mumbles something under her breath and proceeds to look for tape. The queue gets longer. She throws things around looking for the tape. Queue increases. She finds the tape and proceeds to tape the bill (taking her time of course). She even raises the bill to the light to ensure she has lined it up properly. Then she slams down my change. I wanted to file a complaint with the TTC, however, I hold off.

    Today, same ticket booth, same woman. I give her a perfectly good (no rips in this one) $50 and politely ask “May I have 20 tokens please”. She rolls her eyes, takes the $50 while mumbling something. At this point, I begin to fume. “Is there a problem?” I ask. “Where are all these 50s coming from?” she snaps back. I was about to say “The Canadian Mint” but held back. Instead I say “if you have a problem with the $50, I can take it back and buy my tokens elsewhere”. She replies with “you just don’t get what I’m saying”. She raises the $50 up to the light and starts to examine it – still mumbling.

    Where do these people come from?? Where is the customer service? I work with the public all day long and have done so for 21 years at the same job. Never have I spoken in this manner to anyone…even to people who have been rude. I have always been polite to this ticket collector – even when she has been rude to me. Perhaps they should give her another job where she doesn’t have to deal with the public…perhaps she’d like to interact with toilets instead. The TTC washrooms need some heavy-duty cleaning.

  50. Here is my story:

    It was June, 1st.08 at Islington Subway Station.
    I had to take the bus to mississauga…. A ttc employee was standing inside th booth… I wanted to ask him what bus # to take for my destination…..
    He said something but I couldnt hear it .. so I asked him again….. From his lips I can tell he said “Fuck”….

    I will pee on his face if he was outside the station.

    That ‘s my answer…

  51. This is a story from my childhood.

    I used to take the Eglington West bus to school. The regular bus drivers would usually stop at red lights and grab a few things from the store (candy, smokes). One morning the driver stops, pulls over and enters a coffee shop. He gets a coffee and a bagel. He proceeds to sit in the window staring at the bus as he enjoys his breakfast. After his ten minute break he makes sure to grab a newspaper for later.

  52. I cannot stand TTC employees. I see this new ad campaign they’re running about “One employee is assaulted every day.” Every time I see that sign I marvel, “Only one?!”

    I say please and thank you during transactions. I wish them a good day when I exit. I always show my Metropass. I hold my bag in my hand instead of over my shoulder. But you ask them any questions and all you get is flack.

    Last year I was waiting at Dundas West for 505 for almost 40 minutes–it was bloody freezing out. When the guy finally pulls in I ask him what the delay is and he insists he’s on time. I ask if he knows where the other cars were (they’re supposed to arrive every 8 – 10, I think). He told me to just sit down. I asked for his badge number and he told me to fuck off. When I got home, I emailed TTC customer service as well as Adam Giambrone with the vehicle number, the exact time (by the vehicle’s clock) and stop that I got out at. They emailed back to say that they were unable to determine who the driver was and therefore were incapable of taking action against him.

    Another time I forgot my bag on the streetcar. Completely my own fault. It was a nice bag and it was full of CDs and DVDs. Mostly, I wanted the bag back as it was one of a kind and expensive. I made up “Lost bag” signs and a web site for the bag and posted a $150 reward. I got one phone call and one email, from two different people. Both told me they saw a third person pick up the bag and submit it to the driver. Of course, the bag never turned up at the Lost Articles office.

    I now ride my bike about 7 months a year because I hate these people so much. It used to be 5 months. I’m sure by 2011 I’ll be going year round.

  53. For me, I have had both good and bad experiences with TTC operators. The most recent experience was definitely a bad one and it left me in tears. It was a few months back. I arrived at St. Clair West station and got on the eastbound streetcar heading to St. Clair station. The streetcar was queing and the operator was reading his newspaper. An elderly immigrant gentleman with several bags of groceries got on. I had watched him come through the station so I know first hand that he paid his fare. He asked the driver in his broken English if he could have a transfer and the operator said “buddy, you have to get it where you pay, from the machines over there” and he pointed towards the entrance. The man put his groceries down on a seat and got off the streetcar to go and get his transfer…. when the STREETCAR OPERATOR STARTED PULLING AWAY!!! The elderly man started running back towards the streetcar and the operator KEPT GOING. I was SHOCKED. I could not believe my eyes. I said “Sir, the man’s groceries” and all he said was “Lady, I have a schedule”. I got off the streetcar at my stop (Avenue Road) and cried and cried and cried. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have taken the groceries off and waited for the man or gone back to the station. I was soooo disgusted at that operator and wished he could have been fired then and there. Too bad the cameras are only used for crime on TTC streetcars now and not to show the TTC management what jerks some operators are and how they don’t deserve their job!!!

  54. “Add to that a disenfranchised workforce inclined to protect it’s own and you have a system where the worst employees can thrive.”
    I don’t disagree that TTC employees blow for the most part but how are they “disenfranchised”? Are you sure you know what that word means?

  55. My very blonde boyfriend was once refused tokens when he tried to buy with a roll of quarters – very neatly stacked inside a plastic coin holder. The collector just wouldn’t give it him. Eventually we just paid with a bill, but what if that was all the money we had? Since when are Canadian coins not accepted, especially by someone who _needs_ loads of quarters?

    Sure, being a driver is hard. The shifts suck and plenty of customers are rude. But I’m not quite sure what the excuse is for collectors.