A Metro board committee adopted a statement of the transit authority’s commitment to customers on Thursday and forwarded it to the full board for approval.
Here’s what it says:
“The safety and security of our customers is our fundamental commitment. Metro is committed to quality transit service, including clean transit vehicles and facilities, as well as courteous customer service. Metro strives to meet customers’ expectations of reliable service and recognizes the importance of timely and accurate communication, especially during service disruptions. To be responsive to our customers, we will regularly incorporate their feedback in decision making.”
It’s hard to argue with any of those goals, and the board members didn’t before adopting it. It’s the process that’s encouraging. The significance of the statement is that it stems from work done over the past few months the Metro Riders’ Advisory Council. Unlike the Metro board members, the people on the council are not the overseers of pension funds, employee contracts and capital investments. They’re just riders. They volunteer their time on the council because they want other riders to have a better experience.
The values statement quoted above is a condensation of a one-page, seven-point document developed, and heavily debated by the council. While the council worked hard to condense this statement of “Commitment to Customers,” it’s still too long. The Metro staff recommended that board members adopt both the short-form and the long-form to display in different environments, and the board committee did that.
When I’ve discussed the development of the customer pledge and its specific commitments, riders often respond by saying, Okay, fine, but now what? Pledging is easier than performing. For example, Metro managers over the years have periodically discovered the desirability of getting station managers out of their kiosks where they can be more accessible to riders. It’s a matter of staff training, and also of providing the managers with the mobile equipment that can make them more independent of the kiosks. The latest effort to do this is underway now.
Since the proof of customer commitment is in the performance, it was encouraging to hear Lynn Bowersox, Metro’s assistant general manager for customer service, note that all the elements of the pledge are reflected in the performance targets that Metro tracks though it’s Vital Signs scorecard: Bus on time performance, bus fleet reliability, rail on-time performance, rail fleet reliability, MetroAccess on-time performance, escalator availability, elevator availability, customer injury rate, employee injury rate, crime rate and customer satisfaction.
The Vital Signs reports have their limits as a public accountability tool: The Metro staff sets its own performance goals, the measures are very broad and by the time the public sees the statistics, they’re a few months old, and they don’t necessarily reflect the experience of individual riders.
The encouraging part is that since 2010 Metro has measured its performance and relates it to goals customers care about, like those contained in the new pledges.
The latest edition of Vital Signs, presented to the Metro board’s customer service committee on Thursday, illustrated the ups and downs of these measurements. When Metro General Manager Richard Sarles talked with reporters about the fare increase plan, also presented Thursday, he told them, “We had a very good year.” He could back that up with on-time and reliability statistics from the Vital Signs report.
In the July-September quarter, escalator availability improved to 93.1 percent, the best performance in five years. Metrobus on-time performance improved to 80.5 percent for the quarter. Metrorail weekday on-time performance improved to 92.2 percent. For the fifth quarter in a row, the was above Metro’s target for itself. Performance was better on all five lines, compared to the same quarter in 2012.
They don’t necessarily mean your escalators or your Metrobuses, and they certainly don’t mean the Red Line ride in November. The rail on-time performance for November will show a drop, but it won’t appear in the statistics until the next quarterly report is published early in 2014.
Just as the big scorecard can fail to capture some of the daily experiences of riders, it also can miss the impact of some specific initiatives designed to improve the customer experience. Bowersox makes the case Thursday for some of those initiatives.
These are among the items on her list. See how many you’ve noticed.
- Station managers are instructed to remain outside of the kiosks during rush hours.
- Rail cars are cleaner, because of increased cleanings during off-peak hours.
- The lighting at Judiciary Square station was improved, along with the lighting on the mezzanines at Gallery Place, Metro Center and Bethesda.
- A new staircase was installed between the mezzanine and the platform at Bethesda.
- SmarTrip card dispensers are on every mezzanine. (In fact, most SmarTrip cards are now sold from station vending machines.)
- Exitfare machines can now add value to SmarTrip.
- Riders can automatically reload their SmarTrip cards, in the same way that drivers replenish their E-ZPass accounts.
- The training of bus drivers has re-emphasized customer service.
- Cameras have been installed on all buses to increase security.
- New, more readable bus stop signs have been installed.
- The accuracy of the NextBus arrival prediction system improved with upgrades to the location equipment aboard the buses.
- Transit police introduced a program called MyMTPD TexTips, which allows riders to text their concerns to the police department.
- Message boards were added at station kiosks so riders would know of any big problems before going through the fare gates.
- Station managers now have digital radios to communicate with the operations center during major incidents, an upgrade in technology that should help the managers communicate with more riders during service disruptions.