Friday, July 30, 2010

Group Hug!


According to the Ottawa Citizen, OC Transpo is planning to hold five customer appreciation days at strategic Transitway stations throughout the month of August. These events will be held at morning rush hour and will include "refreshments, transit information and promotional items".

Like what? The complete works of Mazo de la Roche in a special weather-proof edition, so we can have something to do when three 118's in a row fail to show up on time?

Apparently someone at City Council thinks it's a good idea to hand out cookies and fridge magnets in the middle of rush hour, presumably with the goal of improving the public image that was never flying all that high, even before the disastrously-managed transit strike of 2008-2009 shot it down into flames. That such a lame attempt at public relations received approval and funding from the City makes it extremely difficult to avoid concluding that none of our duly-elected City Councillors have taken an actual bus to actually GO somewhere since they got their first cars as high school graduation presents. If they HAD been anywhere near Hurdman Station in the last decade, they would realize that OC Transpo customers don't want "refreshments, transit information and promotional items" at morning rush hour.

What we want is to get to work on time more than once a month, preferably without having to leave home earlier than if we were taking an airplane to China.

Even if OC Transpo wasn't still trying to recover the ridership lost to the transit strike (let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they ARE in fact trying to recover it), I'm pretty sure that any first-year marketing student could have told City Council that it is not prudent for a public service to go out and tell the public "We love you!" when the public has nothing particularly good to say about the service in question. It's hard to imagine Revenue Canada, for instance, mailing out "customer appreciation packages" at tax time. The best thing to do for a widely-reviled public service is to lay low, stay off the front page of the newspapers, and avoid getting laughed at and slapped around all over the Internet.

OC Transpo holding "customer appreciation days" is like BP sponsoring a convention of marine biologists. We already know exactly how much we're appreciated, thank you, and it's not a travelling circus that will do anything to change our perception.

Get on the darn bus and see for yourself, Councillors. You're dealing with a cancer that won't be made to go away by throwing a handful of candy at it. Get your act together, fix your disastrous labour relations climate, and get serious about making public transit an attractive option for working people in this city. Give us buses that run on time, quit cutting trips at rush hour, clean up the transit map that currently looks like it was designed by following a deer on psychedelic drugs, and get some client service training for your power-tripping fare controllers.

Give us public transit worth appreciating, and you won't have to hire dancing bears to tell us how much you appreciate us.