Saturday, 18 August 2012

Bon Service, Bad Service

The good news is: OC Transpo is doing a good job, and people seem to be happier. We had a record number of passenger rides last year, complaints are down, compliments are up, and we are on-time more often than ever. Pat on the back.

The bad news is: OC Transpo is doing a bad job, and people are "rattled" about service cuts. OC Transpo is "Going Downhill" according to the Sun's John Willing, and his interpretation of the same statistics listed in the Ottawa Citizen article. Now, kick in the pants.

Did you ever wonder why all the drivers look bewildered on a daily basis when reading the newspaper? We just can't figure out which newspaper is Jekyll and which newspaper is Hyde these days.

I must admit, we have been enjoying a bit of good? press these past few weeks.

John Willing says the buses are safer:

Managers are listening to your hashtagged tweets:

Complaints are down against drivers on phones:

Presto seems to be working, ummm, better?:

Underwhelming? You bet. Any compliment of the service usually seems a bit backhanded. But hey, that's about as good as it gets when talking transit. I mean, nobody ever writes about how great it is to take a bus, do they? I think the service is pretty damned good here in Ottawa. The problem with really discussing transit is the worldwide perception of taking a bus, and how that seems to sway your opinion of the service. We don't get excited about taking a bus. It is a slower version of taking a car. So why would we get excited? Talking transit is like talking garbage collection, or sidewalk paving.

Having said that, we sure do like to complain about it. Have a look at Hugh Adami's story about Marie Vavros and her ticket:

Now, I understand her frustration. I once received a ticket for failing to put the little validation sticker on the rear license plate of my car. I bought the sticker at a kiosk. I brought it home. I forgot about it. I got pulled over. I received a ticket. I was mad. I paid the ticket.

What I didn't do was raise a stink, because I realized that I was in the wrong. I had a task to do to validate my license plate. I didn't do it. End of story.

Look at the picture, right below the numbers. The pass tells you in bold letters what happens if you don't fill the numbers out. Now you can debate all you like. You can tell me that she paid her money. You can tell me that she's the greatest passenger in the world (and having served her, I would not argue with you, she's very nice!). But, the fact of the matter is this. If you don't ticket her, you cannot ticket the hundreds of other people who purposely avoid filling out their numbers in an attempt to defraud the system. "Family Passing" a monthly voucher is bar none the costliest fraud method to the taxpayers of Ottawa.

Discretion is fine on the 1st or 2nd of the month. This incident occurs on July 25th, or 25 days from when the pass needed the authorizing numbers on the pass to make it valid. So what discretion is the officer to draw upon? The customer's appearance? The way she is dressed? Her smile? Her demeanour? That is not discretion, it is discrimination. This passenger will have to explain it to a judge, who is qualified to discriminate.

Adami does a very convincing job of spinning the story into a bully's tale of the mean OC Transpo Police Gestapo. Hugh even spins out his sharpest pen to call the service "second rate". Ironic by any standard, coming from a complaints columnist. But I digress.

Fill out your numbers, or pay a fine. (Lather, Rinse, Repeat)

To the two columns posted today on OC Transpo... From my personal experience, I agree with Neco Cockburn's take on the recent transit survey. Customers were very upset with the broad sweeping changes that took place last September under Alain Mercier. The changes were painful at first, with confused and angry passengers taking out their frustrations on many drivers.

These changes however, had an unusual side effect.

Many drivers agreed with passengers on opposing the sweeping changes, which put us on the same team for the first time in a long time. We fought for passengers in many forums, and were kicked out of many meetings. We wrote letters to the editors, and we listened to passenger complaints daily that were not focussed on us.

There has been a change in attitude over the past year. Our relationship is better, drivers and passengers. On the same page, we really can get along. Seems like the more we talk to each other, the more we realize that we're all in the same bus, going the same place, facing the same traffic, and reading the same two opinions that try to divide us. So write your newspaper articles about the service free-falling downhill. Call us second rate if you must. Spin away. But, know one thing. We are on the buses, and you are not.

And that my friends, is why we know better.

1 comment:

  1. This post reminds me of a quotation, possibly by Margaret Thatcher:

    "A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure."