MTA, union strike deal on future of station agents, ‘customer service ambassadors’

The MTA and the union representing its transit workers have come to an agreement regarding the shifting role of subway station booth workers.

The two parties agreed on a set number of station agents, as well as wage increases for any of those looking to take part in a pilot program that defines a new job title, “customer service ambassador.”

Customer service ambassadors will assist commuters around various points of the station, as opposed to strictly staying behind the glass of a booth.

“This is an important agreement that benefits both workers and riders,” said Tony Utano, president of the Transit Workers Union Local 100, in a statement. “Riders will get better customer service and our members will get access to new, better-paying jobs.”

During the yearlong pilot, 355 station agents will be able to volunteer for the new ambassador role, providing at least $1 more in hourly wages. Any booth worker who leaves for the gig will be replaced by a new employee.

The MTA hopes the ambassadors will be more accessible than booth workers and will engage more positively with commuters. They’ll roam stations from turnstiles to mezzanines and platforms, offering guidance on confusing service changes and train arrival times, as well as helping with crowd control.

The ambassadors will receive special training and will don distinct uniforms. Examples of the new position could be seen in recent weeks at the opening of renovated subway stations in Bay Ridge, where MTA workers in black-and-yellow polo shirts greeted commuters.

MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein described the position as a partnership with the union. He said the selection process for the ambassadors will take place over the next several weeks, with training following thereafter. The new workers will be deployed at priority stations determined by ridership, transfers, tourist use and proximity to major destinations, he added, including at Grand Central, Times Square and Union Square.

“We’re fundamentally changing our approach to customer service in order to give real-time and better information across the system. And that includes significant face-to-face customer service enhancements,” Weinstein said in a statement.