Ideas in Transit: Meeting with Chris Upfold

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Chris Upfold with the 2016-2017 OLIP Interns

The Toronto Transit Commission is the third largest transit system in North America, making 1.8 million trips every single day. It operates 69 subway stops, and large fleets of streetcars and buses. There are 20 million TTC tokens in circulation at any one time. With such a complex system, it can be hard to envision how one would even begin to go about administering it.

Chris Upfold, Chief Customer Service Officer for the TTC, has managed to do it for the past six years, despite this daunting complexity. Earlier this year, he sat down with the interns to talk about what goes into managing the TTC, and why transit is such an essential part of so many Torontonians’ lives.

“Transit has this profound ability to give people back time,” he said. Mr. Upfold worked for the London Underground before coming to the TTC. One of his accomplishments while working there was to cut the average wait time to buy an underground ticket from 30 minutes to 3 minutes – so he knows something about saving people’s time.

At the TTC, he has been responsible for initiatives like increasing transparency with the public about how the TTC operates, and improving the quality and maintenance of TTC washrooms. He also spoke with us about some of the more whimsical initiatives of the TTC, like the ‘Sketching the Line’ art project, and the various murals that grace the walls of Toronto subway stations.

He spoke with a passion for transit and public infrastructure that was inspiring to the interns, and even left us with a couple of choice pieces of advice as we prepare to leave the programme:

“When an opportunity presents itself, hit that opportunity hard.”

“Not making a decision is making a decision.”

And, finally and most importantly:

“If you feel like you’re stuck behind a streetcar, get on one!”

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