If you show up at Terry Fox Station this morning, you’re promised refreshments, a chance to speak with “transit planners and decision-makers,” and a shot at winning a free month’s or year’s bus pass.

The charm offensive moves to Fallowfield Station Wednesday, South Keys on Friday, and Hurdman and Place d’Orleans next Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

Nothing wrong with any of that, and the chance to actually talk to someone in nominal charge about one’s concerns probably outweighs the thrill of a free cup of coffee or a raffle.

And the gesture certainly couldn’t hurt. OC Transpo’s customers are also its owners, and they do not appear to be feeling the love.

In the last Transit Services Annual Performance Report, released in June, the number of OC Transpo riders who rated the service “very good” or even just “good” had sunk to 68 per cent. In the fall of 2008, before the strike, it had been 82 per cent. Only 49 per cent of those surveyed thought OC Transpo cares about its customers.

This impression among riders was probably not improved last week, when existing lane reductions, new construction and poor communications resulted in eastbound bus jams on Slater Street, with some trips between LeBreton Station and Elgin Street taking an hour. The distance is perhaps a 20-minute walk, and many fed-up passengers sensibly climbed off the bus and did just that.

The Customer Appreciation festivities, for some reason, are being held between 6:30 and 9 a.m. This is a bit of a narrow window, and suggests only those customers commuting to 9-to-5 jobs are worthy of appreciation.

The timing mostly excludes, for example, students. Most of them are still out of town and 44,000 of them at the University of Ottawa and Carleton have become mandatory customers thanks to the U-Pass, the cost of which has been added to every full-time student’s fees. These people might well have a few questions or comments, but they don’t fit Transpo’s tight customer appreciation schedule.

It is perhaps difficult for Transpo to put on a happy face even for a couple of hours when behind the scenes, disputes with management over scheduling, which precipitated the strike, continue to fester. Transpo employees last week complained of a poisoned work environment, and there simply may not be much goodwill available to pass on to customers.