"The newly appointed head of a blue ribbon panel advisory panel tasked with improving customer service at the TTC has acknowledged he only uses the transit system a couple of times a week.
The TTC said Wednesday that Steve O'Brien — the general manager of One King West Hotel & Residence located at the corner of Yonge Street and King Street — will chair the panel.
O'Brien has 30 years of experience in the hospitality business and has served on a number of customer service councils, the TTC said.
Speaking after a public meeting of the TTC on Wednesday, O'Brien said he was born and raised in Toronto and often used the TTC in his 'younger life.' But he said he now only takes the TTC a 'couple of times a week' to get around the city.
O'Brien said he lives in Milton and takes GO Transit to his workplace, a 575-unit complex.
The head of the union representing TTC workers was quick to seize on O'Brien's admission.
'I think you have to experience [the TTC] in order to know how to address it,' said Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. 'And it's clear — very clear by Mr. O'Brien's comments — that he is completely unaware of the issues that transit workers face, and quite frankly, the public face.'
O'Brien — who won't be paid for his work with the TTC — maintained he is qualified to lead the panel, noting that staff at his hotel are unionized.
He said he didn't anticipate any clashes with the TTC union.
'Both the management and the union understand that this is something that needs to be addressed. Customer service can be improved and most likely should be improved,' he said.
'It's not just all about, you know, the staff. It's about the customers, it's about awareness, it's about ... working together. It's about understanding and appreciating everybody. We'll see what happens.'
O'Brien is to work with TTC staff to appoint the rest of the members of the panel, which will likely include TTC officials, members of the public, business leaders and transit experts.
The panel is expected to produce a report by June 30 on how to raise the level of customer service. It will also draft a customer bill of rights.
The commission met Wednesday afternoon to discuss a number of issues, including details around creation of the panel and a report on customer service.
The move to create the panel comes after a barrage of negative publicity for the commission, part of which stemmed from rider frustration over the conduct of some its frontline staff."
CBC News - Toronto - New TTC customer service czar an infrequent rider: