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Warmington: TTC riders want change
By Joe Warmington
posted 21-Feb-2012  ·  
A guy who polls people for a living says there’s no doubt that people think the TTC has stopped working for riders in Toronto.

Referring to polling that his firm — Pollara — did last summer, executive vice-president Robert Hutton says opinion shows people just don’t think the TTC is doing the job that’s needed in the city.

“The core problem is many don’t think the service is very good,” said Hutton.

Pollara conducted 1,234 on-line interviews last July 8-12 for a private, non-partisan organization called the Foundation for a Better Toronto.

“Four-in-five (79%) believe the TTC should be a regional service encompassing the entire GTA,” said a written summary of the poll. “This attitude is shared by daily (70%), regular (76%), and occasional (81%) TTC users.”

Even though this survey was presented to some TTC commissioners, it has never been brought to the public.

Until now.

Uncovered by the Toronto Sun, its findings are just too significant for political leaders of any ideological stripe to sweep under the carpet.

If the TTC Chief General Manager Gary Webster is indeed fired Monday, could it be the first step in dismantling the TTC fiefdom in favour of a broader scope of management?

“The taxpayers would have $500-million off the books if they did hand it over to a public-private partnership involving the province, the entire GTA region and the private sector,” said Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who talked of such an idea in his own 2010 mayoral campaign. “It’s a no brainer.”

The Pollara survey, which tackled a myriad of other subjects from toll roads to taxation, also indicated “majority support (56%) for turning it over to Metrolinx.”

“It dealt with the core issue in the public’s mind. Service,” added Hutton.

And, among an eight-member focus group on the TTC queried last month, he said there was even more frustration.

“There was a lot of talk about what happened about St. Clair Ave., general attitudes of TTC culture, level of service and the concerns of breakdowns on the Scarborough LRT.”

Pollara’s “Key Findings — Transportation Impressions” shows “Torontonians are noticeably more negative towards how the TTC is being run than they are towards how the city is being run as a whole.

One-in-three (32%) believe the TTC is run worse now than it was before the (2010) election.

“Daily and regular TTC users are more negative than those who rarely use the system. The TTC is seen to be lacking compared to other cities’ transit systems — 8% feel it is better and 40% feel it is worse.

The TTC performs worst on customer service and cost. Daily users are also quite negative on the system’s reliability.”

When you break it all down, riders seek change in almost every area — cost, inconsistent streetcar, subway and bus service, rudeness and overcrowding.

While it seems hardly fair to dump it all on Webster’s shoulders, the buck usually does stop with the person with the highest pay grade in any customer service organization where customers are not satisfied.

Sources say there could be a clean sweep of several senior people.

“The TTC is in shambles,” said Mammoliti. “I always said amalgamation was going to be a Godzilla and the TTC has proven to be one of the biggest parts of this monster.”

Sources say as far back as a year ago, there were numerous people urging the mayor to “dump Webster” and move to a new day.

“Ironically it was the mayor who said he was opposed to firing Webster because he wanted to give him and the new TTC Chair Karen Stintz a chance to work on things,” said someone who was in the room.

Mayor Rob Ford, a proponent of scrapping the Transit City plan in favour of underground solutions, said what he witnessed first hand on the TTC earlier this month in areas of service and disrepair were “unacceptable.”

His dismay could come home at a special meeting of the TTC Tuesday.

“Whatever the commissioner’s decide, a facelift is needed and a new way of doing things,” said Mammoliti.

A huge majority of the actual people who ride the TTC would agree.
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