Wednesday, January 27, 2016

TransLink can learn from the TTC when it comes to pushing information to riders

Last week, I posted about an internal TransLink report written by former Interim CEO Doug Allen. One of the recommendations he made was that TransLink needs to improve its communication with customers.

When it comes to communication, there are some things that TransLink does well. For example, TransLink’s online presence is second to none in North America. The agency’s Twitter account is usually the fast way to find out what’s going on with the system.

Not everyone uses Twitter, and many transit users don’t have access to a smart phone. Whether by Twitter, phone call, text, or visiting TransLink's website, you have to pull information from the agency. TransLink is good at making information available if you are willing to seek it out.

The other way to get information to customers is by pushing it out. When it comes to pushing information out to riders, TransLink has room for improvement.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was in Toronto last week. I used the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) services to get from my hotel in Downtown Toronto, to my work located in Leaside. This involved taking a subway and a bus.

While TransLink's customer service is far superior to the TTC's on many fronts, the TTC does a far better job of pushing out information to its customers.

One of the things that you can never do, when it comes to providing transit service, is give people too much information when there is the slightest distribution or change in service pattern.

A display at a TTC subway station noting a service delay. Select image to enlarge.

In Toronto, if a subway train is delayed by even a few minutes, the TTC pushes information out to its customers right away.

If you are riding the SkyTrain, you’ll notice that there are sections where the train goes slower than normal. The TTC announces these types of slow zones on its trains, stating that the agency is busy replacing tracks in these sections to improve service. While these small disruptions might seem trivial, people get less stressed when they know what’s going on.

When I was in Toronto two trips ago, there was a major service disruption on one of the subway lines. The TTC was announcing there was a disruptions almost continually at every subway station, plus providing information on how to get around the disruption on the screens in every subway station.

The TTC also pushes out information on its buses too. For example, one of the subway stations was being renovated which required buses to stop at different bays than normal. The TTC programmed buses to announce and display information about this change.

I don’t think TTC riders get upset when that agency pushes out information about every single little thing that could impact one's journey on the system.

TransLink should become more aggressive in pushing information to its riders. This would improve how people perceive the agency, and enhance customer service.

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