"Umm whatever" - customer service at the HSR

Today I decided to make the futile effort of communicating with The Hamilton Street Railway to note a bus which decided to not pick up passengers.

My conversation with the customer service representative ended with her saying “umm, whatever” to my complaint.

Even by the low expectations I have of customer service at Hamilton’s public transit department, this was surprising.

Just after 12:00 noon, I was waiting across the street from the West 5th Campus of St. Joseph’s Hospital for a downtown-bound bus.

I saw a bus travelling quickly along Fennell making the turn onto West 5th coming out of Mohawk College and thought, great the 33 or 35 is here. When it bypassed the five or so people standing at the stop just south of Fennell, I found myself perplexed – it wasn’t an articulated bus and it wasn’t the scheduled time for the express bus.

I watched as the bus whizzed by my stop leaving me and another passenger to wait for the next one. There was room for additional passengers to stand, but the driver decided to go “overhead down” (the HSR code word for overfull) anyway.

I called into the HSR to make sure the overhead down was logged. The reason for this is simple, if there is a problem with capacity at this time, the HSR needs to have a record of it.

After waiting on hold for just over four minutes, I reached a customer service representative and told her I’d like to have the overhead down logged. She promptly, in a rude manner,  started listing reasons why a bus could bypass passengers. I was actually surprised by some of the reasons, I’ve rarely encountered all of them.

When she said the bus may be late and trying to make up time, I told her it was operating within the window of its schedule and that I wish to have the overhead down logged. She rudely stated “ummmmm… whatever” and transferred me to the HSR complaints voice mail.

I futilely left a voice mail message fully aware that nothing will become of it. I noted the rudeness of the representative.

Last night at the mayoral debate, the candidates were asked if they felt the HSR needed to be overseen by an independent transit commission. The three name candidates all said no, feeling the public works department is doing a stellar job of managing transit.

One even went so far as to say the HSR is one of the best managed transit systems in North America. Having taken transit elsewhere, I suggest the mayor-elect spend a month riding the HSR and discover how great it is for themselves – they may decide something needs to be done.

As it stands now, the HSR will continue to operate with a tolerance for poor customer service behaviour until Hamilton has it’s own “sleeping token collector” moment.

Postscript: I enjoyed a completely different experience reading the TTC subway this afternoon. The operators, collectors, and other staff of the TTC were selling Pizza Pizza slices for $1 each to raise funds for the United Way. They were friendly, courteous, and cheerful. One of the union members was singing along to the jukebox. He wasn’t doing a great job carrying the tune, but he was having fun. He was uplifting the spirits of passengers. Kudos to him and ATU 113 for making my day.