CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
The president of the TTC workers' union says it is "disturbing" that a transit rider snapped a photo of what appears to be a sleeping ticket collector instead of checking to see whether the worker was okay.
"The guy could have had a heart attack. He could've had an aneurysm. He could have been a diabetic," said Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents more than 9,000 TTC employees. "Seventy-five per cent of them are down there [in the collection booth]for medical reasons. It wouldn't be the first time we've had collectors collapse."
A picture of the collector, reclining in a booth with his eyes closed, head back and mouth open, has become an Internet sensation since it was posted Thursday.
Photoshopped pictures of the collector riding the Toronto Maple Leafs' bench, gracing the poster for Weekend at Bernie's, and dozing with Homer Simpson in sector 7G of the Springfield nuclear power plant are among at least a dozen spoofs already circulating on Twitter, where the original first appeared. At least two more photos of what appear to be TTC collectors napping on the job emerged yesterday, and TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said the commission will investigate those too.
"Obviously sleeping on duty is not acceptable," he said.
TTC spokesman Brad Ross said the transit agency is still working on the investigation it launched Thursday into the first collector's case. The outcome of that probe - including whether the worker is disciplined - will not be made public because it is a personnel matter, Mr. Ross said.
But Mr. Giambrone said that if the collector doesn't have a good reason for sleeping on the job, he could face discipline.
"There's a series of [possible]sanctions," he said. "It'll depend on the investigation, it'll depend on past history and it includes up to termination."
The man who shot the original photo, Jason Wieler, said he snapped it with his iPhone at McCowan station just after 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9. He said he watched for five minutes and the collector didn't move.
"If his mouth wasn't open as much as it was and he was wiggling around, hey, I would've thought he had some life to him," Mr. Wieler said. "But this guy was out cold."
Mr. Weiler's photo went viral at an uncomfortable time for the TTC.
The transit agency's board voted Wednesday to appoint a blue-ribbon panel of private-sector experts to help improve customer service after complaints spiked late in 2009, largely due to an impending fare increase and token rationing.
Customer complaints increased by nearly 20 per cent, from about 26,000 in the first 11 months of 2008 to about 31,000 in the same period last year. Even though riders deluged the TTC with complaints about the fare increase and the token shortage in November, the top two complaints for the year remained bus and streetcar delays and "discourtesy" from TTC workers.
Mr. Kinnear dismissed the suggestion that rudeness is endemic among TTC employees, and blamed the commission for rider fury.
"I think that the picture has touched such a nerve because of the overcrowding of the service, the lack of service, the cost of the service and the lack of communications from the TTC to the passengers," he said.
He urged the public to cut the apparently drowsy collector some slack: "That's a human being behind there."
ADVICE FOR THE TTC
The Globe assembled its own group of customer-service gurus and asked how they would make the Red Rocket rider-friendly:
Robert Deluce, Porter Airlines
"At TTC, if you find somebody at a booth - and there's no guarantee that at every station you'll even find a live body - they can't take anything other than hard cash or a pre-purchased token. So there's just one particular example of some updating that's required in order to make the TTC system more user-friendly."
Fiona Crean, Ombudsman
"... As a customer, I need to understand: When something goes wrong, how do I get it fixed? That for me is a critical component. Let me know when I can expect a callback."
Dolly Konzelmann, International Customer Service Association
"Take a look at the staff: Are they trained on delivering customer service? Do they have the skills to listen to people and handle the difficult situations that crop up? Are these the right individuals on the front line?"