Each day, CTA customer service reps hear from hundreds of riders asking questions and offering compliments and complaints. Last week, Going Public was one of these riders.
I've logged hundreds of hours riding CTA buses and trains and rarely have I experienced the poor customer service I encountered last week.
The incident occurred after the CTA's meeting in Edgewater about public art projects for the Red Line. Oddly, the meeting was held around the corner from the Thorndale station, which is shuttered for upgrades.
Since that station is closed, I took the No. 36 Broadway bus heading south. At the Foster Avenue and Broadway intersection, the bus driver got off the bus to make a routine driver switch. But the second driver wasn't there.
So we sat and waited at the intersection for the driver to arrive. And waited. And waited. During this time, I tweeted @CTA twice about the situation. The CTA social media team didn't respond. (The account has 13,100 followers. I am one of 39 Twitter users the CTA follows.)
Finally, after more than 10 minutes, the second driver arrived. As he got on the bus, a rider complained that he was late. "I'm not late. I'm on time. My time," the driver told the rider.
Perhaps if the driver was apologetic for being late, I would have let it slide. But he was sassy—which made me angry. I wrote down the bus run number, time and driver's badge number.
The next day I filled out the customer service form on transitchicago.com. I explained the incident and asked to be kept apprised of any punishment for the driver. Almost immediately I received an automated response from the CTA that the agency had received my email.
The following day, the CTA emailed again.
"We apologize for your poor travel experience. Your information has been forwarded to the responsible General Manager for appropriate action. We expect our employees to be courteous, professional, knowledgeable and helpful at all times, so thank you for reporting this incident," the CTA wrote. "While confidentiality matters do not allow us to divulge methods of discipline, please know that this is a documented incident."
I didn't feel the response was satisfactory. I wanted to know specifically what action the CTA was going to take so I emailed details of the incident to agency spokesman Brian Steele, who responded: "I have forwarded your e-mail to our Bus Operations group, and asked them to look into the matter, including speaking with the operator and pulling run records for that evening. I'm happy to keep you posted on the progress."
I told Steele that I felt I received better service as a reporter but he disagreed. He said he checked into the matter and found that my complaint on transitchicago.com was forwarded to the right people.
But problem is with the lack of follow-up. There needs to be more communication with riders after incidents are reported.
Mayor Emanuel's office announced last week it is upgrading the 311 service center, which handles everything from graffiti removal to tree trimming, to allow Chicagoans to track the progress of their requests. A similar CTA system for rider complaints could better keep the agency on track.
Going Public and Tribune transportation columnist Jon Hilkevitch are hosting a panel about transit social media for Social Media Week. The session will be held 9:30-11 a.m., Friday at Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Ave. Go to socialmediaweek.org to sign up.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Bryn Mawr Red Line
If Bryn Mawr were a person, she would be the type of person a friend would submit to "What Not to Wear" or one of the equally embarrassing "your look is all wrong" shows. Her walls are dirty and chipped and her platform and exits are narrow. A coat of paint isn't going to save Bryn Mawr. She needs a complete head-to-toe makeover. And while seven of her friends on the North Side Red Line are getting the station makeovers she so desperately needs, Bryn Mawr sits at home and waits to be saved. And she'll have to wait some more. The CTA said it's still a couple of years away from unveiling project details or conceptual designs for Bryn Mawr because the station requires more intensive engineering than the other seven stations. But one day, this ugly duckling will turn into Cinder-EL-la.
Next up: Grand Blue Line
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