Monday, April 14, 2008

Rider Advocates -- can you fight slobness with friendliness?

Sorry I'm late. I know this is way past tomorrow. About the Rider Advocates: I haven't seen hide nor hair of them since I last wrote -- which isn't to say they're not still out there. Anyway, as I was saying --

They swarm on, and.... maybe I shouldn't say swarm, since that makes them sound like a SWAT team. They mosey on. They make eye contact with people and say hello. They introduce who they are and what they're doing, which they describe as being available to advocate for passengers in any customer service issues that might come up. They chat with people, but they're not in-your-face friendly. I haven't wanted to slap any of them so far.

What they're doing is creating an amiable atmosphere among whoever's around them. One day I watched as they turned a whole section of the train into a friendly living room. A group of Spanish speaking passengers from out of town had just boarded. They sounded like educated professional types, and were very interested in this idea of Rider Advocates. They'd been on the subway systems of Europe and New York, and they were telling their tales, and comparing. One of them told about a stabbing he'd witnessed right on the New York subway. The Rider Advocates remained standing and most of the passengers were sitting down, in the door area of the train where the seats line the sides and face inward.

After about ten minutes of animated conversation among seven or eight participants, the guy I'd been talking to earlier, named Chris, noticed that a teenaged boy sitting among the group wasn't following the conversation. He walked over to him and introduced himself in English and asked him if he understood what the conversation was about, to which the boy answered no. So Chris translated it for him and started a conversation with him about the other conversation, which the boy seemed to appreciate.

The Rider Advocates I've heard so far are all flawlessly bilingual in both Spanish and English. They excel at people skills and the art of mingling. But I haven't seen them deal with any negative situations yet, so whether they would address them or not remains to be seen. Would they be willing to approach some super loudmouth blaring away on his cellphone? What would they say to a big muddy lout with his feet on the seat? Would they ask passengers to turn off their music? Would they let passengers know when their headphones are not working at ALL and serve only to make their music sound like a ten dollar transistor radio from the fifties?

It seems like a good approach -- a cocktail party without the drinks. But I wonder. Time will tell. I'll report in if I see them at work again.



At 9:57 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I haven't seen any yet.

At 9:55 PM, Blogger kate gawf said...

Really? Do you ride the west side? I think they're only doing the east side, at least right now, because that's where most of the problems are.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Are they on the buses as well as Max? I probably only ride Max a couple times a month. I take mostly the 14 & 71 buses, day to day.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger kate gawf said...

No, this is something they're trying only on the MAX. I think it's because unlike the bus drivers, the train drivers are hidden away in a closed compartment, leaving the riff-raff element completely unsupervised. Anything can happen on those trains and they just keep rolling along. The drivers don't even have to know about it.


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