This guest post contains the opinion of the writer and does not represent the official views of Bus Riders of Saskatoon.
Recently at the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation meeting, the new Director of Transit, Jim McDonald, presented a brief report on the Saskatoon Transit Five Year plan to Council regarding their direction for the next five years.
Though there wasn’t much new that hasn’t been covered in previous reports to council, with respect to the relocation of the “bus barns” to Saskatoon Transit’s new facility as part of the Civic Operations Centre, or the state of fleet renewal, there appears to be a renewed focus on customer service and public engagement as part of Saskatoon Transit’s plan for the near future.
This is an area many transit users would likely agree has been lacking, not just in recent years but for some time. It would seem that this new emphasis on customer service and increased engagement is the first significant impact of the new Director of Transit, Jim McDonald.
Adding a new section within Transit and adding another manager could be seen as “managerial bloat”. It could also been seen as a positive sign for the future. It removes customer service responsibilities from the operations section and places it within a section dedicated to customer service. This section will have a manager not only responsible for for client care, but he or she will have the authority to act, and report directly to the Director of Transit.
A high level manager focused on customer service and public engagement, without the distraction of operational responsibilities, demonstrates this new Director’s commitment to bus riders in this city. It also indicates the importance of developing customer service within Saskatoon Transit so that people will want to use it, by choice, and not out of necessity or lack of other options.
While I am not generally an optimist by nature, this does give me hope for the future of Saskatoon Transit. Nevertheless, hopes can, and often need to be, fulfilled through work. As great as the challenge of improving customer service may be, the greater challenge is likely to be at City Council. Ensuring that Saskatoon Transit receives City Council’s support within future budgets, and not solely in words, will take a concerted effort.