Andy Byford TTC

New CEO looks to transform the TTC

At a press conference earlier today, Andy Byford, the new CEO of the TTC was formally introduced to the press. Rather than engaging in an expensive search for a new leader in the wake of former Chief GM Gary Webster's ousting, the TTC board decided to drop the interim tag from Byford's title instead. He then did them one better by retitling the position to CEO, which he hopes will underscore that fact that the Commission is under new management. Message received loud and clear.

As is expected at these types of things, there were soundbites aplenty about accountability and customer service. One does get the sense, however, that this really is an area in which Byford will distinguish himself from his predecessor. Webster brought to the job an engineer's perspective, whereas Byford's rise up the transit ranks included a stint as the manager at King's Cross Station in the London underground.

This service-oriented background may help to insulate the new CEO from the current debate over above- and below-ground transit. For his part, Byford distanced himself from what has become one of the most heated political issues of the Ford administration. "I'm very clear that policy decisions are for the policy makers, for the chair and the commission." Having said that, he also promised to offer "frank and fearless advice to the mayor's office."

We'll have to wait until the next city council meeting on March 21 to see how this plays out, but here's betting that Byford doesn't play a particularly divisive role so early on in his new position. For the foreseeable future, I suspect he'll focus much energy on obvious customer service improvements to the TTC — think things like station cleanliness and managerial visibility — and, if at all possible, stay diplomatic on system expansion.

Pasted below is a copy of the letter that Byford distributed to his staff earlier today. It expands upon his goals for our transit system, which he described at one point as nothing short of "an absolute transformation of the look and feel of the TTC." What do you think? Does he have the right stuff?

Dear Colleagues,

I am honoured to share with you the news that I have been offered, and accepted, the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Transit Commission, subject to ratification at the next Commission meeting on March 30.

The CEO heads up the TTC on behalf of the Chair and Commissioners in a role that was previously titled Chief General Manager. I specifically asked for the title change to reflect my desire to work with you to completely modernize the look and feel of our great company.

The TTC has served the people of Toronto since 1921 and has developed a reputation for innovation, safety and service. We continue to operate the third largest transit network in North America, day in, day out to an ever increasing number of customers and in an increasingly tough operating environment. The time has come to overhaul our procedures and practices to meet these new challenges.

I want to build on the wonderful legacy and successes of your work to date to now take the TTC to the next level. Customers, taxpayers and the public rightly expect the TTC to deliver higher standards of service, safety, customer satisfaction and value for money and we need to look at every aspect of our operation to ensure that we are meeting those expectations. To that end, I have worked with the senior management team in recent months to ensure that we have mechanisms that hold us accountable for our performance, that we have clear goals to achieve, and that we aim for continuous improvement in the service that we provide.

Under my leadership, you can expect the executive team to be highly visible, supportive and fair in the way that we manage. You can expect me to provide clear direction and to speak up for the company and its employees. In return, I need every TTC employee to do their job to the very best of their ability every day, never forgetting that it is the customer and taxpayer that pay our wages. I want us to recognize good performance, but also to challenge mediocrity at all levels.

In my time here so far, I have met a lot of you and visited a great many locations. I have been hugely impressed by the commitment and professionalism of TTC staff across the organization.There are lots of positive developments on the horizon including new vehicles, fare systems and services. But if we are to transform our image and our customers' experience, it is just as important that we focus on what we do and how we do it so our current work on improving customer service can continue.

In assuming the role of CEO, I will continue to focus on operational performance and safety and on delivery of immediate customer service improvements. The debate about transit expansion and policy will continue and I will contribute to those discussions. My former job of Chief Operating Officer will be covered on an interim basis by Dave Dixon and I will provide details of further organizational changes in due course.

In closing, I always wanted to work for the TTC, so I am very excited to be given this opportunity to serve the people of Toronto in such a critical role.

Best wishes,

Andy Byford
Chief Executive Officer

Lead photo by Erin Jones

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