Transit Briefs: Metra, Metrolink, Valley Metro, Sound Transit, TTC

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor

Chicago’s Metra is offering an onboard rider satisfaction survey; Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) has launched a Small Business Partnership Program (SBPP); Phoenix’s Valley Metro has introduced a real-time light rail and bus tracking and trip planning app; Sound Transit has debuted a Northgate Link website ahead of the 4.3-mile light rail extension’s Oct. 2 opening; and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has opened a new Fare Inspector and Special Constable Complaints (FISCC) Office.

Metra has launched an ongoing survey to measure and track month-to-month rider satisfaction and to solicit feedback on on-time performance, cleanliness, communications, and employee interactions. Signs with QR codes that link riders to the survey are being placed throughout Metra commuter railcars. The survey will take no more than 3 minutes to complete, according to the agency.

“This is another big step in our transformation to be My Metra for everyone,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said. “This new survey will allow us to open a new dialogue with our customers and receive continuous input from them about their riding experiences—everything from understanding their level of satisfaction to identifying any unmet wants and needs. This is all about a process of continuous improvement.”

Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s (Metrolink) SBPP will help businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and north San Diego counties “bid more competitively and equitably” on the agency’s contracts. Metrolink has partnered with small business lender Lendistry and training center, The Center by Lendistry, to provide support and tools to the companies—which include Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), micro-businesses and nonprofits—so they can access capital and expand capacity. Once they complete the program, they will be “Contract Ready,” according to Metrolink.

“As we continue to encourage economic growth and equity in the communities we serve, the Small Business Partnership Program is designed to remove potential institutional barriers for small businesses and prepare them to compete for and fulfill Metrolink agency contracts,” Metrolink Board Chair and Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian said. “The program is a win for the small business community, for the local economy and for Metrolink.”

“Small businesses make up half of the state’s workforce, so we are committed to support the long-term growth and success of the small business community in the Southern California region, particularly those businesses that have been hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic,”  Metrolink interim CEO Arnold Hackett said. “We’re excited how the program can help advance opportunities for these enterprises. Additionally, Metrolink will benefit from a larger pool of competing companies that can bring fresh new ideas and perspectives to our organization.”

In partnership with the city of Phoenix (Ariz.) and Vix Technology, Valley Metro’s Plan & Track app allows riders to see when their train or bus will arrive, to plan trips with step-by-step navigation, to view a trip’s travel time, and to receive service alerts and updates. The free app, available on iOS and Google Play, will debut mobile fare payment in 2022. It is the first part of a multi-year program that will also include mobile ticketing, reloadable smart cards and new fare collection equipment, according to the agency. 

“This digital tool is a game changer for our riders. It basically takes all of the guesswork out of planning a transit trip,” Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith said. “We know this is a big deal for current riders and we believe it will attract new riders to our ever-growing system.”

Sound Transit, the regional transit system serving the Seattle and Central Puget Sound area in Washington state, designed its new Northgate website to welcome riders to the light rail extension’s three new stations: Northgate (an elevated station), U District (underground) and Roosevelt (underground). In addition, the site provides rider tips, such as fare card information, as well as opening details.

The momentum and enthusiasm is building as we get closer to the opening of Northgate Link,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said. “We want people to feel the excitement as the opening date draws nearer and to get a taste of what light rail will mean for the neighborhoods that we will soon reach.”

Northgate Link will be followed in 2023 by the opening of service to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake community. Additional extensions to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way and downtown Redmond are planned for 2024.

TTC’s FISCC office will investigate all public complaints involving the agency’s Fare Inspectors and Special Constables, as well as related policies and services. It replaces the Unit Complaints Coordinator, and TTC said it “aims to provide a more accessible, accountable and inclusive process for receiving and responding to public complaints.” The office was established in response to recommendations from the Toronto Ombudsman, and is in alignment with TTC’s Anti-Racism Strategy and 10-point Action Plan on Diversity and Inclusion, according to the agency.

Staff of the new office, within the Human Rights and Investigations Department, reports to TTC’s Chief Diversity and Culture Officer. Riders can submit complaints through the FISCC Office or the TTC Customer Service Center.

“The TTC is committed to ensuring that all complaints are handled in a way that is fair, equitable, thorough and transparent,” TTC Chair Jaye Robinson said. “The new FISCC Office will deliver on this commitment and support the TTC’s ongoing efforts to ensure that our transit network is safe, inclusive and welcoming for all transit riders.”

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