Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Being more open about transit complaints as a customer service technique

In the summer I criticized the transit union, which is supposed to represent members first and foremost, not the customers of the transit system, for protecting union members at the expense of the riding public--when bus operators commit crimes and the like and are still on the job. See "When the union label may be terrifying: transit edition". Recently, GGW made a similar point, "Public unions need to stop defending the bad apples."

And I was a bit critical, in "3 kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics" of the Washington Examiner in how it reported on Montgomery County's communication of the calls made to its service center, because of how it reported on the fact that the most complaints of any county service had to do with the bus service, while failing to report that the bus service is the most widely used county service, with 29+ million trips/year, putting 1,551 complaints over 4.5 months in perspective.

On the other hand, dealing with complaints and reporting on them regularly, and there being consequences for failure to do the right thing can be a method for putting pressure on unionized employees to serve the public better.

The Chicago Tribune ran a story, "CTA bus driver models customer service: Drivers' attitudes can brighten, ruin commute," on an exemplary bus driver--and hey, I think that driving a public transit bus is one of the toughest jobs around in terms of driving a big, heavy vehicle, in heavy traffic, often on narrow roads, on complicated routes, with the responsibility for the people on the bus, and dealing with people, some of whom can be very unruly--and also ran a graphic on customer feedback/complaints given to the Chicago Transit Authority.
Customer feedback/complaints, Chicago Transit Authority
The Tribune story also mentioned how one bus driver made the mistake of skipping the stop of the reporter, who complained and asked the CTA to review video from the on-board camera to prove that the driver deliberately skipped the stop. The driver was reprimanded.

WMATA, as a "suasion" technique, ought to put this information up on the website and regularly update it, just like DC's Department of Transportation's fancy Transportation Access Portal.

And at the same time we have to recognize that serving 1.2+ million riders daily, there are going to be problems, service can't be perfect (even with only 1% error that would be 12,000 problems each day).

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