TTC appoints customer service specialist

The chair of a new TTC advisory panel says that responsibility for better customer service rests with both TTC managers and workers.

During a public meeting at City Hall on Feb. 17, Adam Giambrone, TTC chair, and Joe Mihevc, the vice-chair, introduced Stephen O’Brien, 44, as head of the new TTC Customer Service Advisory Panel. The hotelier and manager of One King West Hotel & Residence in Toronto took the position as an unpaid volunteer. He offered this view of the panel’s priority.

“We at the TTC have to be raising the level of customer service higher and higher,” O’Brien said. “Both management and the union understand that … Customer service can be improved and most likely should be improved.”

Bob Kinnear, head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, worried that O’Brien does not have sufficient experience with the TTC system.

“Mr. O’Brien has acknowledged that he has no understanding of the transit system,” Kinnear said. “It’s wonderful that he rides the Go Train, but the Go Train doesn’t have the same issues that we have here in Toronto.”

O’Brien defended his credentials in the hospitality sector and related them to his work on the new panel.

“At the end of the day as a hotelier, the TTC is very important, from a tourism perspective (and) an employer perspective,” he said. “If staff have a good experience on the way to work, they’ll all be happier at work.”

Kinnear added that his union, which represents 12,000 TTC workers, had no say in the appointment of the chair of the new panel.

“I think it’s important … for the travelling public that they have someone heading this committee that understands some of the troubles that they’re facing,” Kinnear said. “I think we’re off to a bad start.”


  1. As a TTC Operator in my 21st year, I beleive that the current fare structure, collection and enforcement are not the TTC’s primary objective. I beleive that this customer service advisory panel needs to understand that more and more of the travelling public, beleive that they can pay whatever they want with no consequence for doing so. Fare collection, and evasion are a main source of customer complaints. The mindset of those who pay anything but the full fare, is that it’s no big deal, because there is no way to adequately enforce collection. These individuals pay nothing or put whatever lose change they have into a farebox, and when you stop them for the correct fare they say thats all the change they have. As an operator if you challenge that, you now have a fare dispute, which can lead to an assault, a customer complaint or they finally pull out a bill and ask for change. Prior to the last fare increase the TTC stated that ridership was up and revenues were down. This only validates what I’ve known for years. I hope that customer service doesn’t mean we as operators let everyone ride for whatever they wish to pay. Even if that was true, there would still be complaints. Public transit is what it is. It is always held at ransom by some of those that use it, because they fail to understand it’s shortcomings of unpreventable delays, caused by weather, traffic, fare evasion, equipment breakdowns, ill patrons, traffic, and last but not least the public themselves. I sincerely hope that this advisory panel focuses on not just customer service, but the root of the problem, which I beleive lies squarely on the lack of proper funding and an antiquated fare structure that leads to abuse of this publicly funded system. Thank You

  2. There is no doubt that Canada is moving inexorably towards a strong service based economy, reducing its dependence on its manufacturing base and resource extraction base. Strengthening the service sector is dependent on training its employees — both unionized and non — in service excellence. Any program that reinforces this skill development will benefit its employees and, ultimately, the economy. A seasoned hotelier seems like an effective choice as leader for the service skill set development. (Vancouver BC)

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