Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority celebrated the official launch of its Metro Ambassador Pilot Program Monday, deploying nearly 300 ambassadors throughout the Metro bus and rail system.
The program aims to improve the transit experience for commuters by adding extra safety measures to the system.
Since 2021, crime on Metro trains and buses has steadily increased. According to the transportation authority, violent crime — rape, assault, robbery and murder — went up 24% in the past two years. In 2022, 21 people died while riding Metro lines. That number has already been matched in within the first three months of 2023.
Metro's board said the program is the first step in fighting against the violent trend.
The new program is one of the largest of its kind in the country, according to Metro officials. The ambassadors are specially trained in customer service and experience, conflict de-escalation, public safety awareness, emergency preparedness, trauma-informed response, disability awareness, and transit operations, among other things.
"To be clear ambassadors are not security officers," said Metro Board Vice Chairman Ara Najarian. "They are not replacing existing security staff or law enforcement, their role is more nuanced."
A pair of unarmed ambassadors will be on every route throughout the entire week and will not only help passengers pay for their tickets and give directions to lost travelers but also connect homeless riders with services as well as report cleanliness or safety problems immediately to Metro Staff and Security.
"I love helping people so when I heard our core function was support, connect and report, I knew that was right up my alley," said Metro Ambassador Jennifer Sory.
Madeline Brozen researches public safety issues at UCLA and claims she's seen the ambassadors already have an impact.
"I saw them go up to someone who was smoking on the train and have a conversation," she said. "That person stopped. So it's just a real human touch that I think does have a lot of promise."
Monday's launch of the program at LA Union Station's Ticket Concourse Room in downtown LA was attended by Metro Board Chair; Janice Hahn, LA County Supervisor and Metro Board Member; Holly J. Mitchell, among others.
The program is a component of the Metro's multilayered safety plan, which includes additional elements to improve cleanliness as well.
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