MBTA to replace customer service agents in subway stations with outsourced 'ambassadors'

The Globe reports.



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      But they are reading the Good Book

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      So what's wrong with that?

      Before Green St. T staff were eliminated there was a woman in her booth reading a bible (I peered into to see what she was doing) while a friend was having a hard time getting a T card from the machine (which I don't use having a monthly pass). It was nice that she was churching herself in the shalls and shall nots of her religion but it would have been nice if she got out of her cubby and actually helped a human being instead of just helping her soul to Heaven.

      But now Green St. has no human beings on the premises and so it's not an issue. Guess The Deity decided It didn't need a person worshipping It in the station after all.

      Broadway Station was a disaster today

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      You can call them customer service agents, you can call them ambassadors,today they were invisible at the station where the crowds were so massive and out of control that the Boston Police had to take charge and ordered the station to close because the Transit Police lost control and couldn't manage the crowds.

      False. I was listening to

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      False. I was listening to both in the scanner. BPD stated they never closed off access to the station, they merely diverted a portion of the crowd to Andrew (made them walk there). This was to alleviate street level crowds. It wouldn't have been as bad if Andrew was never taken out of the parade route equation .

      one up ya...

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      It wouldn't have been as bad if Andrew was never taken out of the parade route equation .

      neither station would have been bad if they just cancelled the parade altogether (like the majority of south boston residents want).

      T Alert was briefly sent out

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      Due to public safety concerns, all Red Line trains will be bypassing Broadway Station in both directions. Passengers should use shuttle buses @ South Station for Broadway Station service.

      Affected routes:
      Red Line

      Last updated: Mar 19 2017 01:26 PM


      Red Line trains will now resume servicing Broadway Station in both directions.

      Affected routes:
      Red Line

      Last updated: Mar 19 2017 01:42 PM

      It's common for trains to

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      It's common for trains to bypass Broadway for two reasons: People are not moving away from the station out on the street and there is no room to unload passengers, or, the trains are being filled to capacity at South Station and Andrew and have no room to pick up passengers at Broadway. Still, nothing to do with BPD. Either way it has NOTHING to do with the original thread topic.

      Speaking of the parade, why

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      Speaking of the parade, why isn't it mentioned on Uhub? Sure all the controversy leading up to it has multiple articles, and of course biased. But when the parade goes off without a hitch, you don't hear anything about it. Nice reporting Adam!

      I got lazy

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      And there were things going on in my personal life (don't worry, good things) and it was a Sunday.

      Please be sure to check back in and gripe after I don't cover the Charlestown parade, either. I think I missed your complaint about me not covering the Chinatown New Year's celebrations.

      In the meantime, here's a video:

      Your snippy sarcastic

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      Your snippy sarcastic response only proves my point. I'm sure if a rock was hurled at outvets it would make headlines for days. Your site is no better than that rag on Morrissey.

      I don't care

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      To sound like the fourth-grader you think I am, nobody's forcing you to read the site.

      Have a nice life.

      Maybe you missed the parade

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      Maybe you missed the parade because you were very busy writing articles about asbestos and flooded walkways in Eastie.

      At some point ...

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      When my time is limited, yes, I have to decide what to post about, and generally, when I do have to decide, I'll go with things I don't think other sites will have, and I figured there'd be plenty of photos of the parade online for anybody who wanted to see them.


      Family obligations bring one to another part of the state of a Sunday morning.

      It is a good bet that he was making the same trip that I was.

      When does privatization work?

      The commuter rail is privatized but seems to have more maintenance problems than other lines (as a percentage of trips) and the private company is constantly asking for the contract to be changed such that it makes more money and/or is allowed to provide fewer services.

      Seriously, what's an example of a public service improving while public costs decrease due to privatization, particularly in Massachusetts.

      Almost everything

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      Pretty much all of our economy is 'privitized.' Private provision of services should be the default.

      Just because the government has done something in the past doesn't mean it should keep doing it.

      Private bus lines won't run

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      Private bus lines won't run service where it's not profitable. They seek profit. Public services seek to provide transportation for people whether they live in a location it would be profitable to run a bus service or not. Beside creating a third new layer of management there is a mismatch in what profit-seeking corporations do and what public transit authorities do.

      When Keolis, which runs MBTA commuter rail system, didn't have enough locomotives or cars to run the whole system, they cancelled trains on the Fairmont line, even the equipment n the Fairmont line wasn't broken. They used that equipment to replace broken equipment on the other lines. If they told the MBTA or the governor they were doing this, no one told riders who ride Fairmont trains to commute to work. They really screwed over people who ride the Fairmont line and why? No reason was ever given.

      When Keolis was in the news repeatedly for service problems the Baker admin announced he would npt exercise the option to renew the Keolis contract. That just means they'll have to re-bid.

      Before that he gave them $11 million a year above what the contract called for, for 6 years, that's $66 million above contract. Why? I don't think Baker ever explained.

      When lawmakers privatize they hand over a profit-making opportunity to a corporation. Their argument is that operations will cost less. Rarely is the before and after analysis done and when it is, it's often the case that savings was minimal. The companies that get the business often give big campaign donations to the elected officials.

      I'm so very much against privatization...

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      ...but in this case I can't see much choice. From the article:

      The average wage of these employees is about $60,000 to $80,000.

      Before benefits/pension. For folks who don't currently do anything, I can't see how in the world that is justifiable. And with the union of course not willing to allow these "customer service" jobs to be renegotiated into a sensible range, maybe this is one case a private route could work... at least until all of the contracts from legacy employees are completed, and maybe the T can look into hiring cheaper in-house workers again.


      Please show me an example, in this state, where the public has benefited from privatization. In order to be considered "benefited" the service must cost the government less vs the old system plus the services provided to the public must be equal or better then what the government provided with public sector employees.

      Just because something has failed in the past (such as privatization of CR) doesn't mean you should keep doing it.

      T money room?

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      The MBTA money room was a complete debacle, so they outsourced it. I guess it's too early to tell, but I'll wager dollars to donuts that anyone can do a better job than the incumbents did.




      Just one fr'instance.

      When does privatization work?

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      1. Weekly trash/recycling collection. Over the past 25 years, most every municipality has converted from public to private sector workers. None (that I'm aware of) have gone back.

      2. Charter schools. Their record is generally quite good. Those that did not do well have been closed, and appropriately so.

      3. Snow plowing and road maintenance in general.

      In each case, public employees manage the function, and the private sector does the work. Same model will be used for the MBTA Customer Service Agents.

      Couple more

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      City outsourced printing years after the internal system w decades old typesetting machines had become obsolete.

      I believe BFD outsourced mechanical services after a terrible tragedy.

      (charter schools are not private -they are paid for w public dollars and heavily regulated by the state. They are however non-union)

      As others point out, very few services are directly provided by public sector now. Mostly the government manages outside services.

      Don't forget the plastic

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      Don't forget the plastic buckets collecting dripping water. I think they are considered supervisors and make over 100K.

      I'd be outraged.

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      If I would have recalled seeing a customer service agent at a T station within the past 7 years.

      I see them

      There is normally a human in the booth at Davis, South Station, MGH, and Kenmore.

      Who ignore you

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      Unless you somehow manage to make eye contact. Difficult when they're ignoring you.

      I ignore them

      It's not like I'm looking to have a chat. The MBTA, in it's wisdom, stopped have these people hand out Charlie Cards which is perhaps the best use for them. Why you would staff a ticket booth but not sell tickets is beyond me.

      The point of that was to have

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      The point of that was to have less people handling cash. Less hands in the cookie jar, so to speak

      Go for it

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      We will see how enthusiastic you are after your first week of standing and walking for 8 hours each day, getting screamed at by weirdos.

      Oak Grove

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      There is one very nice CSA at Oak Grove almost every weekday morning who is always smiling, greets people as they go through the gates and jumps in to help anyone having a problem. I hope she gets transferred to a better gig.

      And occasionally there was an afternoon CSA who will open the big gate to let out the rush hour crush (while standing there to stop/deter evaders.) Haven't seen him in a while though.

      Expect constant turnover

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      With the current system, you get T employees who know the transit system and who have careers there. They'll be there for a long time, and if they get moved, it will probably be to a nearby station.

      With a privatized system, you can expect constant turnover as people come on board from elsewhere, often from outside New England, work a few weeks or months, and decide they don't like it, or have a better opportunity elsewhere. They'll be just like fast food workers. Dorchester, where's that? Do you want fries with that subway ride?

      And if my commuter rail monthly pass [Charlie Ticket] doesn't work in the fare gate? "Too bad, that's not my problem."

      What does this mean?

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      know the transit system

      Shouldn't new hires be able to pick it up. It's not rocket science.

      Expect low wages

      The new employees will be paid low wages while the executives at the company hired will make nice sums. This plan transfers money which was previously going to many front line people to a few mangers who won't have to deal with the public.

      $60-$80k is what the CURRENT

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      $60-$80k is what the CURRENT CSAs make. The new private contractor employees will likely make much less. Probably minimum wage.

      Turnsover is not a pastry

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      I have to agree with this. I have known people who were station agents after an injury or illness took them off the road for a while and that was how they could keep working in a lesser capacity. However one I know also left the T because the stress that passengers gave them at stations was overwhelming.

      Some fo these people are qualified operators or door guards and are used at peak times to open and close doors on trains at stations like Forest Hills when a train pulls in. That would go away, or those people would still be used in that capacity anyway at peak times. The doors are such that you have to activate a set of controls in a cab end. Once the controls are activated you can open and close the doors from that location. Only one control panel set is allowed to be active at a given time as a safety feature. That's why sometimes at Forest Hills you want those extra 3-4 seconds for the doors to open after the train pulls in. They need time to climb in, activate the controls, then open the doors at the back of the train. Once active, it's then ready for the operator to change ends and go out again.

      In a few rare instances, the station attendant may also be someone they took off the road due to some kind of problem, and this was the agreement between the T and the union to preserve the job. It's not always their choice to take that assignment. Result: a sometimes-surly person.

      In some larger stations the "station attendant" may have other things to do so they will not always be in the booth or near it. From the sounds of things this could be expanded to some light cleaning as well.

      Hmmmm... didn't we just go through a whole thing with the cleaning contractors?

      This is interesting timing since the MBTA recently posted a series of YouTube videos regarding the upcoming job lottery it is about to hold. Go to YouTube and search on "MBTA job lottery."

      If anything, it would be nice if the station attendants knew how to get from point "A" to point "B." Many of the attendants have some working knowledge of the region's geography but plenty do not.

      It's the natural evolution

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      They used to need humans to sell you tokens. When they got rid of tokens, they didn't get rid of the people, they just made them ambassadors with no particular tasks to complete. It was just a matter of time before they decided that they could officially get rid of the ambassadors too.

      $60-80K is the salary

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      of the current T employees which will be replaced by the cheaper versions (if I am reading the article correctly).

      To live in Boston proper and afford the current apartment rents, you need to make around $80K minimum (as cited in a relatively recent Boston Globe story). This salary range is not beyond the pale. It always amuses me to see folks rant and rave when we pay employees a true livable wage.

      That being said, the T will bring workers in at lower wages without pension/retiree benefits. You know the old saying: You pay peanuts, you get monkeys? So you will get high turnover, "ambassadors" that know nothing, and generally worse customer service.

      Go T!

      You work for the T!

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      Why would you need to live in Boston? You can take public transit to work from lots of cheaper places. That's kind of what it's there for.

      Why are they focusing on

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      Why are they focusing on middle class employees who make 60K and help clean the station, make sure fares are paid, help disabled people etc? They should be focusing on getting rid of the dozens of pencil pushers who make over 100K and do not help T riders on a daily basis. Seems like more warfare against the middle class.

      Perhaps we need to ask the obvious question

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      Do we really need CSAs or "Ambassadors" in the first place? How about we put the Transit Police in the stations. In addition to discouraging fare evasion, and being quickly available to respond to problems on arriving trains, they could also double as CSAs.

      Win-win all around.

      Replace the booths

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      They should replace the glass and metal booths that the agents sit in. I've never seen anything less customer friendly. You can't even talk to somebody shielded behind those walls. Sure, you might be able to coax them outside and they might even give you friendly service, but the barrier of their totally closed-in booth says "Go away."

      Where are you finding a CSA

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      Where are you finding a CSA booth inside the faregates? Every one I can think of is outside them, usually right between the gates and the TVMs, though most of the ones I can picture off the top of my head are limited to the orange line.

      Savin Hill

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      Booth is inside the fare gates. Sometimes staffed.Sometimes empty.


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      eastbound AND westbound. Booths are usually empty, although during AM rush hour westbound usually has a CSA sitting on a stool at the ticket machines.

      When a government agency is as politicized

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      as much as the MBTA, and hiring is heavily tilted towards those who have 'connections', help fill a 'benchmark' (quota), etc., etc., no one should be surprised by the results. That said, there are many decent MBTA employees, and there are those who are just playing a rigged system and know they can get away with behavior they wouldn't get away with in a nongovernmental job.

      Legitimate question. Would the new "privatized"

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      CSAs be able to legally enforce fare collection and be able to write tickets to fare evaders?

      Given the number of people who are caught fare jumping and found to have outstanding warrants, this is clearly is a legitimate concern. Just another reason to do away with CSAs entirely and put actual Transit Police into the stations.

      That would be very, very

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      That would be very, very expensive. Probably the cost would be higher than what is lost by fare evaders.

      Having the Transit Police actually in the stations

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      would not only reduce fare evasion and other crime, but would provide faster response when a problem occurs on a train or in a station. Plus, you eliminate the need for the SUVs, cruisers, motorcycles - which can be sold off, as well as the need for maintenance, fuel, etc. for those vehicles.

      But let's stick to the "old school" thinking of "the benefits enforcing laws don't justify the costs of doing so.

      And you still haven't answered the original question - Would "privatized" CSAs be legally allowed to ticket fare evaders, or to run background checks on them?

      Sell off the T Police

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      Sell off the T Police vehicles, so they're done policing anything to do with the roughly 2700 T vehicles now?

      Why even bring up privatized CSA's ticketing and doing warrant checks when the regular T CSA's couldn't do those things?

      Well the article says that in

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      Well the article says that in addition to doing things the CSAs normally do like assist customers using the system, they will need to be cleaning the stations. So why not add being a transit cop to their list of duties. Once the republicans have all the greedy working class people make less, America will be great again, like in the 1920s when robber barrons had all the money and working people were destitute. Then there will be more money for corporate welfare. Baker has a plan.

      put actual Transit Police

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      put actual Transit Police into the stations.

      Shockingly enough they have actually been doing this lately. There have been several mornings where there was a Transit cop standing (or sitting) just beyond the gates at Sullivan watching everyone tap in.

      CSA's at Back Bay very helpful

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      All the CSA's at Back Bay Station are super-helpful whenever I deal with them. When I've needed assistance topping up cards for out-of-town guests, the person who helped me was patient and informative.

      Forest Hills

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      As a European I am generally against privatization of public services, it almost never fulfills its promises. But I go through Forest Hills every day and I see the value of these CSA as zero. Not close to zero, zero. There is a screen that shows the status of the many bus routes and when the next bus is expected. This information is important to me and in my experience (it may have changed since the adoption of an "official" app) more accurate than that shown in apps. When it breaks I am affected, and by the look of confusion in other people's faces, so are they. Day one, I go to the CSA. Day two, I go to the CSA. After a week I report it to the 311 app. Solved. Twitter. Solved. These guys don't even pass my complain/suggestion.

      Forest Hills is 50/50

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      There is one guy who kind of treats the station like his home, in a good way.

      On the other hand, I was going by the booth on Saturday and there were 2 guys in the booth doing, well, not too much.

      The theory is that the CSAs could be doing a lot, but as these things shake out (or, as we kind of predicted) it ended up being an excuse for doing less. And since there often never a CSA to be found when I have needed one, I think the T took the change as an excuse for doing less with less.