Fare Ambassadors are here to stay!
Following the Sound Transit Board’s action this week, and a successful pilot program, the helpful yellow-hat clad ambassadors will be permanent fixtures on Link and Sounder.
The Board approved funding for the Fare Ambassador program and set staffing and fare inspection rates.
This action caps more than four years of work by the agency to overhaul its fare compliance policies and practices to make them more equitable and expand access to affordable fare for low-income passengers, while maintaining important fare revenues.
As part of this work, the Sound Transit Board approved reducing ORCA LIFT fares for income-eligible passengers from $1.50 and $1.00 and making fare free for youth 18 and under. These reduced-fare programs go into effect on Sept. 1.
Earlier this year, the Board adopted new a new fare compliance policy that includes more warnings and non-monetary ways to resolve citations.
We are still working to establish internal resolution programs. The new policy will go into effect when those are up and running. We’ll provide more information as we get closer to implementation.
Successful pilot program
Fare Ambassadors replaced fare enforcement officers on Link and Sounder in September 2021, starting a pilot program that runs through the end of this year.
This program was developed in response to community feedback that clearly showed a preference for a friendlier, non-threatening presence on trains.
Sound Transit responded by changing the Fare Ambassadors’ job descriptions, uniforms and training, putting their focus on assisting and educating passengers about how to access affordable fare media.
Throughout the pilot program, we have stayed in close contact with our passengers and community groups to gather feedback on how the Fare Ambassadors are doing. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with people telling us they like interacting with the Fare Ambassadors.
During the pilot we also learned important information about the types and length of interactions Fare Ambassadors had with passengers that helped us recommend staffing and inspection rates to the Board.
We found that Fare Ambassadors spend more time with passengers than the old fare enforcement officers did because they provide customer service and education about how to ride the system.
This told us that we needed to add staff to meet the target 10 percent inspection rate adopted by the Board.
Fare Ambassadors needed
We’ve recently hired the third group of Fare Ambassadors who will soon be out on the system. To meet the target of 46 Fare Ambassadors in 2023, we’ll need to bring on many more.
If you love transit and working with people, check out the job description. People from the communities we serve are encouraged to apply.
For now, nothing is changing for passengers, though you may see more friendly faces and yellow caps on your rides.
Fare is required on Sound Transit services, and Fare Ambassadors will issue warnings for adults over 18 who do not show proof of payment.
When we’ve fully developed and implemented the internal resolution program, Fare Ambassadors will issue citations on a passenger’s third and subsequent interactions without proof of payment. We will notify passengers in advance of this change.
In the meantime, we will continue to gather feedback from our passengers about the Fare Ambassador program and will report on its effectiveness to the Board next year.