At Friday’s Pittsburgh Regional Transit board meeting, CEO Katharine Eagan Kelleman announced the agency would begin a new “Rate Your Ride” program in September that will allow riders to instantly report their experience to the agency.
Amy Zaiss of Beechview didn’t wait that long. She spoke 15 minutes later during public comments to tell her story of a ruined dinner on June 17.
Zaiss said she waited for more than an hour for an outbound light rail vehicle before giving up when she couldn’t reach customer service to find out when the next train might arrive.
Unfortunately, Zaiss’ dinner was the day of the second Taylor Swift concert at Heinz Field. She was particularly bothered that the agency later patted itself on the back for having its busiest weekend day since the pandemic that day and getting all of the Swifties to the concert.
It didn’t help that when Zaiss tried to report the problem to customer service the next day and representatives could find no evidence that her train didn’t arrive.
“Is it a success when a regular customer can’t get where they want to go?” she asked.
Zaiss said she had lived in several other large cities and purposely doesn’t own her own car, but unreliable service and lack of information from the agency are forcing her to reconsider.
Following its normal policy, the board and staff didn’t respond during the meeting, but Kelleman and others met with Zaiss immediately after the meeting to tell her about upcoming changes.
In addition to Rate Your Ride, the agency has created a two-person rider experience team and will hire seven additional people to expand customer service so someone is available every hour the agency provides service. It also will resume twice-a-year surveys asking riders what they like and don’t like about their riding experience, which were suspended during the pandemic.
In the next year, the agency also will revamp its website to make it easier to find information about detours and delays in one location, said spokesman Adam Brandolph.
Kelleman said none of that would comfort someone who had an experience such as Zaiss.
“We have plans in place to improve, but if you had a bad experience, that’s not what you want to hear,” she said.
With Rate Your Ride, customers will be able to scan a QR code on the bus or light rail vehicle to answer a half dozen questions such as whether their ride was on time, clean and the demeanor of the operator, plus add any other comment about their experience. The surveys can be anonymous but there will be incentives for riders who agree to provide contact information.
Kelleman and Brandolph stressed the program is designed to improve service, not discipline employees. Retraining may be offered when it’s appropriate, they said.