Letter to the Editor

UPDATE: the letter was published, with the StarPhoenix’s usual softening around the edges.

Apropos my previous post:

The StarPhoenix’s call for a long-term plan for transit (editorial, Nov. 28) is welcome but we need a lot more than just another plan from Saskatoon Transit. They need an attitude adjustment.

Transit officials seemed to have used route capacity data and consulted with city council and the transit-workers’ union as part of their recent review. However, they bizarrely forgot to consult the most important stakeholder of all – the customer.

Saskatoon Transit exhibits the complete antithesis of customer service. While they have their open houses to inform residents of their semi-annual route changes, transit officials never actively solicit passengers on quality of service. They treat reported incidents as a nuisance rather than an opportunity to improve. As far as I know, they never conduct their own market surveys regularly to see what it would take to get non-transit users to take the bus. And where are their annual customer satisfaction surveys?

Their attitude is inherent in their language. They strive to increase “ridership” instead of “sales”. “Customer service representatives” are hidden behind phone lines to those transit users who take the time to dial in a complaint. Bus drivers, who are de facto “customer service reps”, are called “transit operators” as if they are hauling freight or, more appropriately, cattle.

Most importantly, no one in the organization appears to be accountable for poor service. Bus drivers complain about management, management takes no responsibility for lousy bus drivers. And city council simply refuses to acknowledge that this public service model is outdated and unacceptable to the modern consumer.

This is a systemic problem that lies deep within the transit culture. It will only be resolved once all parties adjust their attitude and make customer service their top priority.

We’ll see if that gets a reaction.

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