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Instead of Cops, Metro Just Added 300 ‘Transit Ambassadors’ to Make Riding L.A.’s Trains and Buses Safer For Everyone

4:42 PM PST on March 7, 2023

Via Metro Los Angeles/Instagram

In an effort to strengthen security and efficiency for both veteran and prospective riders of L.A.'s public trains and buses, L.A. Metro added 300 "transit ambassadors" to its ranks yesterday to lend a helpful presence around its stations and stops yesterday.

According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, said ambassadors skew young and come decked out in green Polos that bear the creed" Support. Connect. Report." in ALL CAPS. Essentially, they'll be friendly faces who'll help you figure out where you're going by bus or train, answer Metro-related questions, and teach you how to use your TAP Card.

They're also charged with reporting that guy who just sparked a blunt and is now fist-fighting with that other dude with the bike who told him to put it out. In addition, they'll alert the powers that be whenever there's a splattered plate of ketchup-saturated fried rice leaking from a diaper (assuming that's what that all is) all over the bench you weren't going to sit on anyway. They will even "connect the unhoused to Metro’s homeless crisis teams."

They sound like brave members of the new generation to begin with. Then comes the fact that they'll be unarmed unless you count cell phones and iPads and a youthfully enduring belief in the speed and efficacy of whoever is supposed to respond to your distress call.

The institution of such ambassadors, two contracts signed last week totaling $122 million according to L.A. Daily News, was inspired by one currently employed by San Francisco's BART and was a deliberate attempt to not involve the police like the one who killed Oscar Grant on San Francisco's BART. Or the ones the Metro board found are disproportionately citing Black and Latino riders.

In Metro's own words on Instagram:

Metro Ambassadors will help you navigate our system, provide extra eyes and ears on our buses and trains, and support riders who need assistance. They’re here to welcome you to Metro, answer your questions, connect you and other riders to the resources you need, and report issues they see.

Point of emphasis: Metro Ambassadors aren’t security officers, and they ARE NOT replacing existing security staff or law enforcement. They’re part of our Customer Experience department – and they’re also part of our multi-layered plan to reimagine public safety with Transit Security Officers, law enforcement, improved cameras and lighting, more frequent cleaning, as well as homeless outreach and crisis intervention teams.

Metro Ambassadors are diverse and come from the neighborhoods we serve. They have lived experiences which make it possible for them to perform their job with empathy, respect and skill.

Metro's new program appears to be an actionable response to turn around feelings compounded by recent articles reporting (and social media posts sensationalizing) grim statistics about the rise of crime and assault on its buses and trains in 2022, a year that saw increased ridership of roughly 28 million more boardings as Angelenos got out more in the wake of COVID lockdown.

According to a Metro survey, about 89% of respondents wanted more Metro staff to be on board trains and buses. Ridership among women has reportedly dropped, while male ridership has gone up.

Apparently, drugs are an issue for people, too. One woman quoted in the Long Beach Press-Telegram story saw some friends on shrooms on the Gold Line once, which sounds somewhat fun, while another day, she saw some dudes smoking crack in the elevator, which does not.

A physical presence by some fresh-faced Metro reps could go far in alleviating some of the riders' concerns, new and old, supplying something of a safety line should things get uncomfortable or scary.

In any case, it's nice to see Metro employing real walking, talking humans for this, and not outsourcing the job to robot dogs or AI.

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