Byford named new CEO of Toronto transit system
Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012 5:49PM EDT
Byford was named the interim leader two weeks ago after the former TTC general manager was fired amid an acrimonious debate about the transit system's future.
Byford will be given the new title of TTC chief executive officer, a change he says is meant to underline the TTC's new direction and its desire to transform itself.
Byford said the TTC needs to shed its reputation of being overly bureaucratic and introspective.
"I really want to change the way our customers perceive us. I want to give the staff strong leadership and strong direction," Byford said at a news conference at Davisville station.
"Ultimately my focus is on our customers and the taxpayers of Toronto. They are the key reasons we are here."
The TTC board still needs to approve Byford's new contract, likely at a board meeting on March 30, but Chair Karen Stintz says she expects the vote to be unanimously in favour of permanently hiring the transit industry veteran.
"(Byford) is going to bring his significant skill set to the Toronto Transit Commission so that we can continue the good work that has been started," Stintz said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Byford was originally hired by the TTC as its chief operating officer in September 2011 and assumed the interim leader position in February.
He has previously worked with several rail operators in Australia and the United Kingdom, including a stint as the general manager of the London Underground.
Byford said it was exciting to take command as the TTC goes through significant changes, including an expansion and the introduction of new vehicles, and gets international exposure during the upcoming 2015 Pan Am Games.
"There are so many good things that are going to happen that will transform our company, the image that we present to our customers," and build outstanding customer service, he said.
Byford commended the TTC's 12,000 employees and thanked them for their hard work managing North America's third-largest transit system.
"Having said that, clearly there are areas that we have to improve," he said. "My focus will continue to be a relentless, all-out push to deliver improvements in customer service, in efficiency, in value for money and in taking the TTC to the next level."
Changes in the works
One of the improvements Byford has already overseen is a new midday litter pick-up program, which will soon be expanded from just subways.
"I want to do the same for streetcars and buses, that's next on the to-do list," Byford told CTV News during a subway ride-along Tuesday.
Byford has also started a program to regularly wash the platform track-side walls, which he said were "filthy" when he started.
Beyond customer service, Byford vowed to pay attention to TTC staff and to be an approachable boss. He even made this commitment to a TTC operator during the ride-along.
"I want the focus to be as much about the staff as it is for customer," Byford told a subway operator who just congratulated him on his new position. "I want to look after you guys as well."
Webster was fired after he disagreed with Mayor Rob Ford's plan to push for underground transit. Instead, Webster spoke in favour of a cheaper, above-ground light-rail transit model.
On Feb. 21 the TTC board voted 5-4 in favour of firing Webster.
Council later dissolved the TTC board and replaced it with a new group of seven city councillors and four citizens.
When asked, Byford declined to weigh in on the ongoing debate between subways and light-rail transit, calling it a matter of public policy.
"My job as the head of the TTC is to offer professional advice based on my experience and that of my team. I will continue to do that," Byford said. "But I am very clear that the actual policy decisions are for the policy makers, for the chair and for the commission."
The TTC's expansion plans will go before council on March 21.
With files from Natalie Johnson