Friday, November 30, 2012

Swift Stories -- An Ambassador's Perspective

By Will Bolzell, Swift Ambassador

It is hard to believe that Swift bus rapid transit has been running for three years. My name is Will Bolzell, and I have a truly unique perspective on this service. I am the only Community Transit employee to have driven Swift and also worked as a Swift Ambassador.

Just in case anyone is wondering what a Swift Ambassador is, let me explain. Swift is able to complete trips in much less time than a traditional bus. This is accomplished by having all riders pay their bus fare at the station before boarding, among other characteristics. Using this method, when a bus arrives at the station, passengers only need to board or deboard, allowing the bus much less time at each station.
Will Bolzell is one of three Swift Ambassadors.

Since each person isn’t paying right in front of the bus driver, there are some people who take advantage and board without paying. This is where the Swift Ambassador comes into play. It is our job to assist customers with riding the service and to verify fare payment. In cases where the passenger doesn’t have proper fare, it is the ambassador’s job to document the case and/or involve Snohomish County Sheriffs deputies for further disciplinary steps, when needed. That can include a $124 fine.

As you might imagine, I’ve seen and heard some things in my time aboard Swift. Because Swift is a quick service, sometimes people are in a rush and leave things behind. A few months ago while I was walking through the bus, I noticed that someone had left their wallet on the seat. I grabbed it and headed up to the driver’s area. I wanted everything about this situation to be on camera because the wallet was stuffed full of cash.
Not long after we arrived at the final stop, a car came tearing into the transit center and three people jumped out running straight for the bus. I knew exactly what they wanted, and the frantic look on all of their faces confirmed it. After having them identify the wallet, and checking the owner against the picture ID, I returned the wallet. The owner mentioned that this was their rent money, and they thought they had lost it. After many thanks and a few hugs, they went on their way. I’m just glad I was there to find it. The looks of joy and relief on their faces made my day.

Another time, I was aboard a Swift bus and as we arrived at the station, there was an obviously intoxicated young man standing on the edge of the curb with an arm extended out into the street, defiantly blocking the bus. The driver tried to pull up to the stop, but the guy wouldn’t move. I’ll speculate that he wasn’t expecting there to be two Sheriff’s deputies aboard the bus. The look on his face was priceless when the front door of the bus opened and a less than amused deputy grabbed him by the arm and placed him under arrest. It isn’t a good idea to be drunk in public, but it’s a worse idea to do so when you aren’t old enough to drink.

Probably the most important piece of information that I could give is: If you ride any of the public transportation systems in the area, get an ORCA card! It will save you time, money and stress! The two biggest benefits are a 2-hour transfer and it only takes a second to use, so no more missing the Swift bus while you pay your fare!

1 comment:

  1. Great story, Will, thanks for sharing a number of different perspectives on the job of the Swift ambassador. I've lost count of the number of people who are hostage to the ticket vending machine's slow, deliberate processing of their transaction while the bus is a block away, then as it arrives, some drivers even wait a few moments, and virtually all times the person is left behind. In the early and later hours, that means a 20 minute wait (or, in some cases, they may catch a #101), otherwise a 12 minute wait. In the colder, clammier conditions of this time of year, that's a big deal. Get an ORCA card, folks!