THE MOON AND THE TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION

CASA LOMA/RUSSELL HILL SUBWAY ACCIDENT AUGUST 11th 1995

INQUEST DAY SEVENTEEN - Friday 2nd February 1996

ALL QUIET ON THE INQUEST FRONT

 

         The fireworks and bombs of the last couple of days seemed to have relieved the tensions in the court room and after much mutual apologizing and assurances of co-operation by all concerned to everyone and sundry, the inquest continued. Mr. Punter indicated that a policeman had read the Subway Improvement Project report but as he was not a "regular" member of the investigating team, he did not realize the importance of the report and it was glossed over (Oh my!!). Mr. Punter apologized for the use of the word "bomb" and Mr. Leck volunteered that the Keys to the Palace (TTC) are with the Crown and the Police. All is smoothed over!!!

 

         Mr. Tony LaRegina was on the stand for the rest of the day and Mr. Punter lead him off. He is a principle in the firm of Regina Hill. After reviewing his credentials, he indicated that his company had been given part of the Productivity Improvement Unit (PIU) initiative. He deduced that the TTC was an autocratic, top down, highly structured organization and this was in the days of Al Leach; he considers it to be more so today under David Gunn. In an example of the TTC being a military organization, he described a situation where Earl Rowe, a General Manager, was questioned about coming late to a meeting. (It has been my opinion for many years that there is no way we can expect to run a service on time when our management and staff are completely incapable of EVER coming to meetings on time. Our practice in this regard has been, and I bet still is, atrocious.)

 

         In Mr. LaRegina's opinion, the culture at the TTC was changing during his consultancy (Oct 1994 - May 1995). He indicated that he had saved money in the Wheeltrans area, analyzed and made full blown recommendations for the revamping of Streetcar management and had done an investigation of the Transit Control Centre. He had also made proposals, after investigation, for the improvement of training in the Operations Training Centre (School Of Instruction).

 

         In discussing the top down management structure, he described how everyone knew that this was the structure and this was not a problem. The problems arise from the fact that there is no participation or commitment on the part of the "troops" in such a situation.

 

         In some way (not clearly defined) Regina Hill were asked to produce a report on a serious delay in Wilson Yard on December 12th, 1994, a report being produced and submitted in January 1995. It was Regina Hill's conclusion that the delay, primarily caused by the disconnection of switch heater cables, was due to a lack of other than the simplest preventative maintenance.

 

         Mr. LaRegina, without any comment from Mr. Punter unlike Mr. Cedarburg's testimony, named names. He managed to get the following names into the record:- Messrs Moscoe, Cole, Leach, Gunn, Brolley, Simpson, Giovannini (it's a good job I still have copies of old telephone directories to check the spelling of people no longer with us!!), Thacker and Rowe. He was familiar enough to refer to most of these people on a first name basis.

 

         Unlike Mr. Cedarburg and Mr. LaForce, Mr. LaRegina had no difficulty in attaching the word "Safety" to any part of his evidence. He described communications across the Commission as poor (surprise!!) and opined that strained communications can lead to safety problems. Management haven't been trained.

 

         Having given a general account of his activities as a consultant to the TTC, Mr. Punter then had Mr. La Regina concentrate on a report dated 18th May 1995 in which concerns about the Transit Control Centre were discussed. In Mr. LaRegina's view, the TCC has a safety component. It has badly selected and trained staff. It is noisy and unfriendly. It has distractions like a press reporting area. It is a place where the breakdown in our operations originate. It is a disaster waiting to happen. It is a room full of friction.

 

         Mr. LaRegina put his finger solidly on the major generator of most of our operational problems - the Subway Delay Committee. This committee has been in existence for years and has become a place to pass blame around. He called it the Blame Committee. See the Comments section below.

 

         A great deal of time was spent trying to get the actual dates when senior management at the TTC saw and read this report as it does address, though perhaps obliquely, the problems extant in the subway and the TCC.

 

         There was also a discussion on how Regina Hill was fired after Mr. LaRegina had contacted Mr. Moscoe. This firing happened within 24 hours of this contact and it is Mr. LaRegina's opinion that this occurred because "he did a run-around of management!!".

 

         Mr. LaRegina felt that he had a good working relationship with the TTC staff he met and with Mr. Gunn. He indicated that Mr. Gunn had recommended him to New York. He did however indicate that there was a lot of friction between the politicians on the Commission and the Senior management of the organization. Nobody pursued this "revelation".

 

         In cross by Mr. Birenbaum, Mr. LaRegina indicated that he thought Mr. Leach and Mr. Rowe were heading in the right direction in trying to get a less autocratic, more participative culture in place removing fear and blame as major operatives. He indicated that this sort of procedure in an organization like the TTC can take several years. He feels the TTC is not a systems oriented environment and it should be. Systems was the next area for investigation but Regina Hill was fired. (In this discussion he used the word "passengers" and then hurriedly changed that to "customers" - Fool!!!)

 

         Mr. Birenbaum had Mr. LaRegina describe that although Mr. Gunn and Mr. Brolley were in favour of doing something about fixing the training offered by the School Of Instruction, it was Brolley's underlings who scuppered the proposal. He indicated that TTC staff had input on all reports and proposals except the January report on the Wilson Yard delay.

 

         In describing the Communication problems with the Transit Control centre for Mr. Bamberg, Mr. LaRegina had discovered that if people could get away with NOT calling Transit Control, they would do so as this was a way to avoid the Blame problem. Staff would call Plant Maintenance Control  or the Equipment department or anyone else in order to remove themselves from the TCC blame management operation.

 

         Mr. LaRegina feels that a "simulator" is vital in a new Transit Control.

 

         For Mr. Falzone, Mr. LaRegina said that he was not a big fan of monetary awards, that it was more beneficial to make people feel important and respect their suggestions and input. He felt it was particularly important to explain to staff why a suggestion was NOT being implemented to encourage staff to keep trying. There were a lot of good people at the TTC. A family environment. Staff had been around for years and knew what to do to get service out.

 

         When Mr. Leck tried to get Mr. LaRegina to sympathize with management's problem with the Union Contract and seniority in trying to enforce discipline or to change procedures, Mr. LaRegina zoomed right in on one of his major suggestions - a properly developed performance review system based on job descriptions that are realistic and management and staff who know what is expected of them. He indicated that it was unrealistic to expect one man (Mr. Gunn) to save $60 million when a whole branch (PIU) had not been successful in this endeavour. Mr. Leck got into his defensive posture again by suggesting that the December 12th 1994 freeze up problem was a "highly unusual condition". Mr. Leck also has a bad habit of assuming the jury is going to read the paper blizzard that is burying them and does not quote extensively from documents so that the record is clear. In this way he can imply things are being done without offering any evidence of results. Mr. Leck could not get Mr. LaRegina to agree that his May 18th report on the Transit Control Centre was narrow in scope, in fact he tried to suggest that the TCC, with all it's faults, is OK (then why are we pushing Metro and the Province to massively fund a new one??). Mr. Leck also suggested that in assigning blame, the intent was to assign responsibility. Mr. LaRegina was quite definite in his opposition to this suggestion.

 

         Mr. Leck tried to have Mr. LaRegina say how many of the suggestions and recommendations he had made had been implemented. Mr. LaRegina did not know.

 

COMMENTS

 

1)      In contrast to Mr. Cedarburg, Mr. LaRegina was a much more credible witness. He had his facts pretty well marshaled and knew his subject. In discussing the Subway Delay Committee, he described very accurately the constant and never ending finger pointing in our organization when delays occur. It has been my experience as an observer in Transit Control for a number of years that this committee has caused more problems than it has solved. It is a navel gazing assemblage of people from a number of departments with axes to grind. It has no interest in improving the operation, only in trying desperately hard not to have "my" department blamed for delays. To say that a 10 minute delay caused by a problem on the line is the responsibility of (say) the equipment department so that at the end of the month someone on the 7th floor can laud it over someone else is childish in the extreme. There is no such thing as a 10 minute delay. If a train is delayed for 10 minutes, it affects service immediately and for some time to come. The Transit Control logs talk constantly of a "10 minute delay to service" as if the delay to an actual train is the only delay. I have seen a 10 minute delay take more than four hours to correct and NONE of this is EVER mentioned in ANY reports from either Transit Control or the Blame Committee. It is however reflected in overtime claims from operators but this is buried in administrative cover-ups. This is because we do not understand what a delay is or what it's effects are. There is absolutely NO recognition by the TTC of the effects on our passengers’ lives when we stop service for 20 minutes for a Passenger Assistance Alarm for which no reasonable cause can be found. We cavalierly ignore the fact that the costs to the community of our sloppy provision of service affects NOTHING but the train involved. I suggest that this committee immediately self immolate.

 

2)      So far we have heard from at least three people we have paid good money to for their expertise and support. All I have heard from TTC personnel is a barrage of complaints about the results of this support. One wonders why we do it.

 

3)      Today was yet another day when the word “Safety” was bandied about like motherhood and apple pie. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines safety as (amongst other things):-

 

         freedom from danger or risks.

 

         This is such a subjective description that almost any specification imaginable could be described and fall into the definition. This is what is happening at this inquest. Everyone is using safety as a catch-all word without explaining what they mean and the result is mass confusion.

 

4)      Big surprise to all non-TTC readers (and even, perhaps, some TTC readers!!). The TTC hires consultants because Senior Management and the Commission have no faith in the staff of the organization and feel that if they pay for advice, it is bound to be right (see 2 above !!!). Staff have come to recognize this fact and willingly subscribe to it because they know that, in most cases, they can get the consultants to say anything that staff wants them to say. In a 1987 report from Coopers Lybrand which was produced as part of the New Materials Management System project, the following statement is made:-

 

         "Employee motivation seems to be based on fear rather than positive re-enforcement. There is very little encouragement throughout the organization for people to change, or to contribute new ideas for improvement. Younger, highly motivated employees, perceive and in some instances are told that they require ten years of service to 'pay their dues' before being listened to by the 'old timers' who formulate decisions. This requires a lot of patience, and wastes the potential contribution of many employees with new important skills who are eager to improve the organization."

 

         Today we heard Mr. LaRegina say the same thing from the witness stand and we paid him (and JLA) for the same advice we obtained only 8-1/2 years ago. Will we ever learn ??

 

5)      One can only assume that Mr. Leck is conducting his TTC business from a condo in Fort Lauderdale. Freeze ups are a fact of winter life in Toronto and for him to describe the December 12th 1994 incident as "highly unusual' is an abrogation of the facts. We have done little since I have been employed by the TTC to ensure that service on a winter morning is anything but abominable. I used to get a lift to Yorkdale Station in the morning to catch a train to Dupont and then on to Hillcrest and on winter mornings you would think it was our avowed intention to drive passengers away with our freezing cold trains which had NO heat WHATSOEVER. To read and hear that the situation has not changed in many years comes as no surprise for we do not care about our passenger's comfort despite the nonsense from senior management and Public Relations to the contrary.

 

6)      The Subway Improvement Project report, which was the cause of all the acrimony this week, is an approximately 20 page single spaced report detailing a large number of concerns of two employees with a combined total service of 25 years. They have produced a litany of suggestions for improvement, many of which I have heard of for many a year but for which no action has been forthcoming. Mr. Leck has indicated that a “number” of these suggestions have been adopted and are in the process of being implemented. Many improvements have "hurriedly" been adopted and are in the process of being implemented since August the 11th. It is surprising what wake up calls can do. The Counsel for the deceased and Dr. Huxter have clearly indicated their intention of examining the record for this action and my gentle readers will be appraised of the results  - if I ever get to hear about them!!

 

          Day 18 commences at 10:00 a.m. Monday

 

                 Dave Irwin   -   2 February 1996

 

 



 

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