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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Turn on the oven. Set it to 450F and let it burn

from:Name Withheld
to:"greg.percy@gotransit.com"
cc:"CEO@metrolinx.com" ,
"minister.mto@ontario.ca" ,
"cj@thiscrazytrain.com" ,
"premier@ontario.ca"
date:Tue, May 26, 2015 at 12:26 PM
subject:What is going on with GO Train Lakeshore East Line and what/how do you intend to repair

Mr. Percy,

I am writing to you regarding the recent issues with GO Transit Rail service, specifically the Lakeshore East Line.

As I know you are quite aware, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of incidents in which the GO trains have been impacted (late and/or cancelled trains) due to track switch problems.  While we GO commuters are more sympathetic to this issue during the cold winter months, what is going on now as this clearly is not related to weather? 

I was one of hundreds of people that were stuck/delayed on the train this past Thursday, May 21st.  As I texted my husband to advise that I would miss my daughter's soccer game, I overheard many other commuters make calls to family/friends/daycare/doctor's etc., advising that they too will be missing dinner reservations/birthday celebrations/doctors and specialist appointments/late pickup at daycare, etc.  These missed appointments cost us in late/cancellation fees (some doctors charge upwards of $50 for missed appointments), extra daycare expenses of up to $5/minute late pickup, etc. not to mention our valuable time.  We work long days and the last thing we need to deal with is sitting on a train for 60+ minutes wondering if the train will move or will we be kicked off the train and left to figure out how to get home via other transit/cab options?  Oh yes, this has happened before and I can say from experience, this is not fun nor enjoyable.

Do we not deserve a bit more respect and answers as to what GO Transit's problems are and what GO/Metrolinx intends to do to minimize and finally resolve this issue?

I feel that everyone at GO/Metrolinx really has no respect or care for regular GO transit passengers as 'they really have no other option other than drive to work'.  Yes, many of us don't have any other option other than GO Transit but we certainly shouldn't be held hostage?  Perhaps you don't care about regular GO commuters but I'm probably not off the mark in that there have been many worried executives/employees at GO/Metrolinx working on ensuring this doesn’t happen during this summer's PanAm/Parapan Games in July-August.  Won't GO transit look foolish when you can't even get volunteers/fans/ticketholders to the many events in the GTA due to 'track switch problems'.  I'm certain there are contingency plans in place to deal with this as GO/Metrolinx would not want any unfavourable media and/or Facebook/Twitter posts about how inept our rail system is. 

I've just received another email advising that the LSE 11:13 train will be late again due to earlier track switch malfunction.  I'm hoping this will be resolved before I have to catch my train this evening otherwise I will miss my daughter's soccer game, the second in the past 4 business days.

I don't expect a response; however, I just might be shocked and get some answers from someone.

Regards.

(Name withheld)  - weary and frustrated GO train commuter.

P.S.  I have to take the time to say that I was impressed with the Customer Service Ambassador on my delayed May 21st train.  Although she couldn't provide us with expected times of the delay, she keep us informed (even if she didn't have any current update) and even advised that passengers could use her cellphone to make any important calls.


From: GO Transit [mailto:no-reply@gotransit.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 11:16 AM
To: (name withheld)
Subject: Union Station 11:13 - Oshawa GO 12:11 train - Estimated Delay

The Union Station 11:13 - Oshawa GO 12:11 train trip is estimated to be delayed 10-15 minutes from Union Station as a result of an earlier track switch malfunction west of Union. We apologize for the inconvenience.


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All aboard the ghost train - epilog

by Chris P. Bacon

Back in March, I got to travel on a GO Transit ghost train.  If you recall, the trip was a comedy of errors, and precipitated an e-mail to Metrolinx asking why the GO Train Service Guarantee claim could not be submitted.  I know, you’re wondering whether Greg Percy & Co. ever responded to that e-mail.

I must share with you that when Gary McNeil ran GO Transit, he always responded to my queries – weekends included.  I asked him once whether he wanted to be apprised of issues I encountered.  Mr. McNeil responded as follows: 

Subject: Re: PRESTO transaction history out of sync with reality
Date:   Fri, 30 Mar 2012 01:51:33 +0000
From: Gary McNeil
To:       Me

Pls [sic] keep me in the loop. I like to hear the true customer experience.

The current president of GO Transit has never responded directly to my e-mail; the ghost train experience was no exception.  It was a month before anyone from Metrolinx even acknowledged my query – in stark contrast to Bombardier’s Raymond Bachant, President, Americas Division, Transportation, who responded to my e-mail commending our CSA in less than twelve hours.  GO Transit finally answered my query as follows:

Subject: GO Transit, A Division of Metrolinx EM0018001412
Date:   Mon, 4 May 2015 09:42:43 -0400
From: GO Transit Customer Relations
To:       Me

Dear Mr. S,

Thank you for your patience while I looked further into this matter for you.

I’m not sure if you’re aware that the GO Train Service Guarantee system is a fully-automated system. It relies on a trains scheduled arrival time to determine if a trip was late. It will then use additional information, such as how many minutes the train was delayed and for what reason, to discover if the trip is eligible for a refund.

Unfortunately, since there is no scheduled arrival time for this trip, the Service Guarantee system is unable to determine if the trip was late. However, I would be happy to apply a credit to your PRESTO card for the price that you paid for your trip, as a customer service gesture. This credit will be available for you to claim within 2 business days from today’s date, May 4th, 2015. Simply tap your card onto any PRESTO device after this time frame and the credit will be uploaded automatically.

Thank you for letting me assist you.

Sincerely,
P. E.
Director, Customer Care, GO Transit

Cc.      Greg Percy, President, GO Transit
Robert Hollis, Executive Vice President, PRESTO

There you have it.  Over six weeks to get and answer from the GO Transit award winning Sunshine List team.  Awesome, isn’t it?

As CJ advised in this recap of less than stellar service on the LSE, you are encouraged to send e-mail to the president of GO Transit with your concerns.  I find it never hurts to copy CJ, too.  Remember, you pay the salaries of these folks.

The aftermath

The Toronto Star did a follow up piece on the recent track switch malfunctions plaguing the Lakeshore East corridor. These malfunctions have affected East, West and Stouffville GO trains.

In response, Greg Percy, GO Transit's president, told the Star's Tess Kalinowski a special switch SWAT team has been assembled to monitor the situation.

This was all I needed to hear. Sign me up as Hannibal. Summon me a GMC van painted green and white. Dress up Percy as Mr. T, complete with Mohawk and gold chains, and let's roll out this A-Team.

We've been given lip service before. As far as I know, no one at Metrolinx has been fired or disciplined over this mess and our Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, is too busy cutting ribbons for things that require no more than a smile rather than answer the emails and tweets of his constituents. His boss is no better.

The Service Guarantee refunds (which required passengers to call in and request verbally after the online system denied many) are cold comfort to those of us who spent hours getting home due to these delays. Missed bedtimes, dance recitals, piano lessons, doctors appointments, physiotherapy sessions, medications, family commitments, work shifts and other personal therapies can't be forgiven especially where there's an expense involved with respect to late fees and lost wages. Then there are those of us who found out the hard way when your phone battery dies, and with no change, your last resort is to use a payphone in a Scarborough strip mall with your credit card, because you can't make a collect call to your husband's work phone, lands you a $14.77 charge on your VISA bill. Nearly $15 for a call that was less two minutes.

Refunds don't cover these fees and charges, or make up for a shortfall on a weekly paycheque. Refunds don't shorten the wait list for the woman who waited five months to see an eye specialist, who spent $110 in cab fare in a desperate attempt to make a 6:40 appointment she had in Whitby, only to arrive to find the office closed for the day and an invoice for $50 for missing the appointment.

Fix it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

How we all feel about GO Transit right now

video

I want to blog about last night's LSE disaster so hard but I'm buried at work and can only fire off this note

  1. These delays are unacceptable. I can joke with you on Twitter but ultimately, you're a customer, too, and you need to call Metrolinx (416) 874-5900 and GO Transit (416) 869-3200 and make your grievance heard. Fire off emails to greg.percy@gotransit.com Unlike his predecessor, Gary McNeil, Percy doesn't read his emails but he has a team of assistants who do and their job is to address and faciliate. Make sure you cc his boss premier@ontario.ca

  2. Don't scoff and say complaining won't do anything. YOU PAY THESE SALARIES. If you found time to write an email to me, you have time to write an email to them

  3. Service Guarantee Refunds do not reimburse parents with children in daycare where the late charges range from $1 for every minute late to $5 for every 15 minutes late. The people operating these facilities would like to go home and the children in their care want to see mom and dad. For those with pets, dogs need to be let out and fed. Cats need ... wait, who am I kidding? Cats don't care that you're late.

  4. On the 4:07, apparently a passenger was physically assaulted by a group of other passengers after a confrontation with the CSA. I can't verify. If you have info, please share in comments.

  5. On the 4:25, a woman went into labour? Can anyone verify?

  6. I bailed at Scarborough GO. I rode a TTC bus that was worth every penny of the $3.25 I paid (what a shit show tour of forgettable streets and people say Oshawa is a dump?!) and I found a GO bus where the rest of my ride was as luxurious as I expect from the fare I pay.

  7. How did you get home?