January 17, 2007
Tram Preview Ride
January 17, 2007 12:42 AM
Bob R. Says:
I'm glad your preview ride went well. Unfortunately, I did not have a great encounter with the tram today.
Upon reading an article on the Tribune's web site which stated that OHSU had opened the tram to the general public today due to the weather, I took the streetcar down there with a couple of friends.
We were not allowed to board, even though we quoted the article and happened to have a printed copy with us. We were told by the staffers that "we don't care what it says in print, it is NOT the case, we can't let just anybody on".
Other people who did not have OHSU IDs but claimed to be students were allowed to board as a group without question.
On the return streetcar ride, we encountered a couple of far more polite OHSU and tram staffers, who informed us that they thought the newspaper article was correct, and they called a supervisor to have them re-educate the tram operations staff.
The Tribune later changed their article but claimed they were indeed informed by OHSU spokespeople that the tram was open to the public due to the weather.
We later found the OHSU weather hotline number and called, and the recorded message stated that the tram was open to anyone who "needed to get to Marquam hill."
I guess "need" is a subjective term here, and in our case it wasn't an important need, but we weren't asked that. We were simply told, quite loudly and plainly, to go away, as though we were somehow at fault.
It's not exactly as though there were throngs of people trying to get a jump on the grand opening ceremonies. A couple of OHSU employees on the return streetcar expressed to us that they were surprised that we were not allowed to board.
I still have "tickets" for the Sunday of opening weekend for my family. I still look forward to that trip, but I hope the tram operators improve their customer service skills, or at the very least get their PR department and their employees in sync.
- Bob R.
January 17, 2007 5:58 AM
Scott Mizée Says:
Wow... Is it still open to anyone who 'needs' to get up there today? I just might feel the need....
January 17, 2007 8:35 AM
- Bob R. - Kinda sounds like a single person on a power trip, cuz loudly and boisterously stating you can't ride doesn't seem very respectful at all. I'd also imagine you aren't a bum, or where aggressive (as if anyone in Portland is).
Better luck next time! :)
I think I'll wait 2 wks to a month after opening to go attempt the "flight".
January 17, 2007 9:53 AM
What I found somewhat amusing was the Oregonian's breathless coverage of the tram being operational despite the snow!!! Uhhh, it's basically a ski lift, folks. It had darn well better be operational in the snow!
January 17, 2007 10:57 AM
Bob R. Says:
From KOIN.com this morning:
Tram Again Shuttles Patients Up Pill Hill
PORTLAND - Oregon Health and Science University has again opened the new tram for all OHSU, Portland VA Medical Center and Shriner Hospital employees and patients and others who need access between Marquam Hill and the South Waterfront District.
South Waterfront parking is limited, and OHSU is encouraging everyone to use the TriMet and the Portland Streetcar to reach the tram terminal.
The tram operates until 10 p.m.
The tram is open to the public only on Wednesday.
Anyone here gonna try it? (I'll wait until opening weekend at this point.) At least the word "need" worked its way into an article this morning -- the word "need" was not present in any article I saw yesterday morning.
January 17, 2007 12:21 PM
Bob R. Says:
Sorry that I keep hijacking Chris's post (great photos, by the way), but I'd like to offer some constructive words --
1. On the topic of the "single person on a power trip"
We can identify the two individuals who treated us rudely, but I'd rather use this opportunity (such that it is) for constructive improvement.
One of the things that made the incident such a surprise was that I had met one of the tram representatives previously. A few weeks ago, just after the tram had started carrying OHSU employees, I visited the lower landing and chatted up one of the operators (I did not try to board). This person was quite friendly and quite eager to answer questions. When I saw this same person yesterday, perhaps my guard was down because I was not expecting rude treatment from someone I had previously encountered in a positive light.
Long ago I used to work in a minimum-wage retail job ($3.15/hr if you want to work out the dates). I had a variety of duties, including accepting/processing customer returns of consumer electronics and camera products. Suffice it to say, sometimes when dealing with the public, there can be some very bad days, where no interaction seems to go right, despite a history of good customer service and good people skills, and sometimes a single minor incident can cause even the most seasoned staffer to lose control.
I am fully willing to concede that over the past several weeks, the tram operators may have encountered all sorts of jokers trying to scam their way onto the tram before the grand opening.
If indeed the standard yesterday was simply how badly you "needed" to get up the hill, then management made a very poor decision. They put it upon their employees to have to be a judge of every single situation, to basically have to interrogate people who did not have ID and to make an arbitrary decision -- for each individual passenger.
In our case, our reason for going up (in addition to checking out the tram) was a late lunch appointment. This was a completely impromptu appointment, made possible by the supposed availability of the tram, but such was judged not to be a "need". Lunch cancelled.
So, if this situation was caused by poor management decisions, I'm not going to try and rake an employee over the coals -- just to ask them to lighten up a little.
Here's what I would have said, were I the employee: "I'm very sorry, the Tribune article is not fully correct, management has asked us to assess the needs of each rider. Based on what you have told me, I cannot let you board. I understand you've made a journey here based on what you've read. If you'd like to talk to management about this situation, I can put you in touch with them." Or something like that.
I will reiterate that the other OHSU/tram employees we met on the return streetcar voyage were quite polite and helpful, and made efforts to contact management. I believe these employees were off-duty, which further illustrates their good customer relations skills.
2. Contacting Management
There appears to be no way to directly contact tram management. We weren't going to re-confront the angry employees to try and get in touch with supervisors (we weren't there to create a scene -- we left immediately when rebuffed.)
According to Verizon Wireless, there is no listing for "Portland Aerial Transportation, Inc.", and when we reached the OHSU switchboard operator, she was unable to find contact information for tram operations. She did, however, relay to us that she had seen a memo that morning and she was under the impression that the tram was open to the public.
There were no contact phone numbers posted at the lower landing (at least where we looked.)
Later, we checked the portlandtram.org homepage, and no contact information is listed.
Constructive suggestion: Post your customer service contact information at the landings, in the phone book, and on the web. $57 million ought to buy you a heck of a "contact us" page.
3. Future weather incidents
All of this will be moot after the 29th, but should we see another weather incident that renders Marquam Hill dangerous to access by car or bus (freezing rain is a possibility in the long term forecast), instead of forcing your employees to make a needs assessment of every passenger, how about the following:
Create a standby line. OHSU ID holders and those claiming to be patients can board at any time, and then as each car is nearly full, a few members of the general public, for whatever reason, may board from the standby line.
I really don't think officials need to fear unmanaged throngs of people showing up on an icy day. If you get too many people, form a line. There's plenty of room at the landings.
Even Disney and Universal now have two-tiered waiting lines, where "VIP" or "Fast Pass" users don't have to wait in line, and everyone else queues up. Southwest Airlines has A, B, and C group lines, if you need a transportation precedent.
If you give a long list of who can and who can't ride to the press, it's bound to get reformatted, misinterpreted, misprinted, whatever... just keep it simple. Say "Due to the weather, the tram is open to the general public, but there may be long lines."
I've now taken up way too much time on this topic... I hope my comments will result in some good, or at least some amusement for others.
- Bob R.
January 17, 2007 2:30 PM
It had darn well better be operational in the snow!
January 17, 2007 3:36 PM
Bob R. Says:
To further illustrate the aggravating confusion coming from press reports about the tram, the Portland Tribune web site is now reporting that OHSU says the tram is operating "for staff and patients only". This contradicts today's KOIN report saying it is also open to "others who need access".
Which is it?
- Bob R.