More evidence of a new era at the TTC: cellphone service on subway platforms is in; maroon jackets are out

More evidence of a new era at the TTC: cellphone service on subway platforms is in; maroon jackets are out

(Image: Markian Lozowchuk)

As soon as Andy Byford took the helm of the TTC in March, the changes began. He opted for a beefed up title—“CEO” rather than “general manager,” like those who held the position before him—to mark a symbolic change. He publicly chided staff for customer service embarrassments. He installed fancy hand dryers in station washrooms. Seven months into his tenure, the evolution continues. Here, three more signs that the TTC is moving into a new phase (we can only hope it’s a phase with less crowded streetcars).

Cellphone service is coming to subway stations
The old regime: Save for a few brief above-ground segments, subway riders operate in a digital blackhole.
The new regime: Officials estimate most stations will have service within two years. Some of the signals will likely bleed into the tunnels, making texting on the train a possibility, at least downtown where the stations are close together.
Is it a good thing? Though many will complain about feeling surrounded by loud talkers, it’ll be great to notify  friends or colleagues in the event of (inevitable) subway-induced tardiness. Of course, the TTC could just try to keep the trains on schedule.

Rob Ford actually deferred to a TTC exec
The old regime: The mayor wasn’t happy when former TTC general manager Gary Webster opposed his proposed Sheppard subway extension. The result: the civil servant lost his job.
The new regime: Byford believes a downtown relief subway line should be Toronto’s first transit priority—ahead of even Ford’s pet project in Scarborough. Surprisingly, Ford said he’s “open to the idea” and that ”it’s up to Andy Byford.”
Is it a good thing? Ford is a (very vocal) fan of subways, so it’s not a huge leap for him to support a downtown relief line. Still, any sign of willingness from the mayor to consider transit plans that differ even slightly from his own is a step in the right direction.

For some jobs, customer service will trump transit experience
The old regime: The TTC has 14 station managers, but they haven’t always been able to save the agency from embarrassments like sleeping fare collectors and repairs that never happen.
The new regime: Over the next six months, the TTC will hire six to eight group station managers to oversee a group of stations and improve everything from fare collection to cleaning. For the candidates, excellent customer service and management skills will matter more than transit experience.
Is it a good thing? Byford says funding for the new managers comes from existing payroll costs—so we say, why not? If it worked for the London Underground, it could work for Toronto.

The maroon jackets won’t be around much longer
The old regime: The eggplant-tinged jackets worn by drivers and fare collectors are synonymous with the TTC for a generation of riders.
The new regime: Byford told the Globe and Mail that a new outfit—probably dark blue—would be ”symbolic of a new approach” and command more respect. The new unis will roll out slowly, as employees wear out their current duds.
Is it a good thing? Hard to say. We imagine staff would be happy with a new look, but we would miss the homely charm of the iconic jackets.

TTC ready to let subway riders talk and text [Toronto Star]
Scarborough subway line may have to wait: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford [Toronto Sun]
TTC chief imports the job of ‘group station manager’ [Toronto Star]
No more maroon? TTC set to ditch iconic uniforms [Globe and Mail]