Not any more

Behind GO Transit’s passenger charter

In Canada on November 9, 2010 at 09:50

After thousands of riders petitioned GO Transit for better service more than two years ago, the regional transportation service set to work on a passenger charter to deliver customer satisfaction for its thousands of daily riders. The resulting five-point plan was introduced. “We start a better way to deliver what our customers want, and that is better service,” said Metrolinx president Bruce McCuaig in a news conference at Union Station on Monday. Post reporter Vincent McDermott examines the charter.

Point 1: “We will do our best to be on time”
One of the pillars of any transportation company’s service, it would be safe to assume that GO was already trying to be on time. But Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne admits it is a difficult promise to keep. “Things happen that are beyond the human beings who run GO Transit,” she said. “But we still have to try.” Customers remain skeptical. “They should be trying hard anyways,” says Autumn Taggart, a student who says her train was once 90-minutes late. “I’m not sure if it was a problem with another train, but that was unacceptable.”

Point 2: “We will always take your safety seriously”
Again, an honourable goal, but presumably one that staff and customers alike assume has always been in place. “I think this is to just help people feel more at ease,” says Richard Soberman, a board member for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and the former dean of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. “It’s rare for a transit system to be less safe than driving a car.”

Point 3: “We will keep you in the know”
A new website allows customers to track how well GO Transit is fulfilling its promises. “It’s all about accountability and transparency,” said Mr. McCuaig. “We want to show our customers how we’re doing.” The website shows that GO wants its trains to be on schedule at least 90% of the time. Performance this year is already better than that, at 95%.

Point 4: “We will make your experience comfortable”
“More and more people want to ride transit,” said Ms. Wynne. “We want to make it more comfortable then staying in the car.” Riders would probably like that too, and they are getting louder when it comes to voicing complaints. According to Mr. Soberman, the focus on hospitality is becoming a common theme for transit companies. “Historically, there was a take it or leave it approach to comfort. Now, there is more competition, more customers and a larger obligation to provide better quality and service to customers.”

Point 5: “We will help you quickly and courteously”
While the new website shows that GO Transit is doing well on timeliness, it is falling short on helpfulness. GO hopes to respond to customer complaints within 48 hours, but the average wait time has been closer to 65 hours over the past year. Clearly there is room for improvement. “Transit systems are becoming bigger and customer orientation is a priority for transit companies,” says Mr. Soberman. Helpfulness means little to customers such as Ms. Taggart if her train isn’t on time. “I think a lot of these promises are going to be difficult to keep,” she says. “It’s nice that they’re trying, but I think we just have to accept the fact that transit in general just sucks.”

National Post

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