Maybe the TTC really is the better way after all.
The first of the agency's new customer-service surveys awarded the TTC an overall score of 76 out of 100 – better than you might expect for a system Torontonians usually love to hate.
"On the whole, a 76 out of 100, it's not world class, but it's not bad," said Chris Upfold, the TTC's chief customer service officer.
The first-quarter telephone survey of 550 TTC riders found that subway users doled out the best marks for the safety of the system, and the worst for its cleanliness, crowding and the availability of help from station staff.
For instance, 88 per cent rated safety in stations as excellent or good, while 93 per cent gave the same high rating to safety during actual trips.
Helpfulness of staff, station cleanliness and crowding inside vehicles were rated excellent or good by 52 per cent, 59 per cent and 56 per cent of respondents, respectively.
"To see that people had high rates of satisfaction on personal safety, that was very important," TTC Chair Karen Stintz said, adding that the real test will be what the surveys show over time.
When it comes to buses and streetcars, respondents were least impressed with how long they had to wait for vehicles to arrive, and most happy with the "appearance of the operator."
The TTC has conducted surveys sporadically in the past. But now, in a bid to improve its customer-service performance, the TTC is planning to survey 1,100 people per quarter and track the results.
The results of a smaller first-quarter survey, made public at a TTC meeting Tuesday, come days after the TTC's new CEO, Andy Byford, issued a letter scolding drivers who were caught texting or reading a newspaper behind the wheel, or pulling over illegally to grab snacks.
Mr. Upfold said that while it will take time to fix the problems the survey highlighted, there are opportunities for quick improvements. For example, respondents gave middling marks to how easy it is to purchase fares.
"That's a classic question: What retail shop would be willing to have 30 or 40 per cent of their customers say, 'you make it really, really hard to buy something,' " Mr. Upfold asked.
He said the TTC continues to look into installing debit and credit card readers at stations, but it needs to further study the cost of the hardware and the potential for line-ups as cards are processed.