I enjoy taking the subway most of the time. It's one of the things I like about Toronto and by the same 'token' one of the things that most disappoints me - as in how our politicians haven't seen fit to expand the system to fit our city in many years.
Recently the TTC made me feel like a passenger in the fourth streetcar behind a Queen Street fender bender - frustrated, powerless and most of all resigned.
It started Wednesday morning. I arrived at my local station with $2.50 in change (it's a $2.75 fare) and a $10 bill. It's one of those entrances with no attendant and I planned to buy tokens. However, when I tried to put my money in the slot it wouldn't take my bill.
I pushed the call button on the intercom and told my plight to the voice at the other end: machine not working, a quarter short of a ride, would he let me in? I promised to pay when I got off.
I had done this before when the token dispenser was broken so I was hopeful the resolution would be good.
He told me they were only selling single tokens (because of an upcoming price increase) and that I had to walk a (long) block to the main subway entrance and pay in person. I suggested I would also have to walk back. And while I enjoy a good perambulation as much as the next person, that didn't seem right.
He wouldn't relent. I was mad about what I perceived was poor customer service, not considering my point of view. I took a cab.
I vowed Thursday was going to be different. I armed myself with enough change for a couple of tokens and headed to the station. But the first machine was broken and ate $1.75. Frustrated, I went to the intercom and told the attendant (a different one) my plight. He gave me the same line as before: walk to the main station. Exasperated, I put some money in the second machine and lost another $2.25.
Token-less, I caught a cab again.
It seems to me that both attendants had two choices. They could have tried to help me (what I wanted) or sit back and do nothing (what they did). But helping requires work and a positive attitude and they just couldn't bother.
Will I use the subway again? Of course. Will my experience be diminished? Absolutely. Will they ever be able to get my trust again? Maybe, but it's going to take a long time.
So what's the point? I think Julie Rusciolelli said it well in her post on the City. Great service makes you feel first class. Thanks to the TTC, I feel neither.