Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Day in the Life of Swift's Ambassadors

10 hours on your feet. 10 seconds between buses, hopping on and off. More than 12,000 average fare checks a month.*

Welcome to the world of the Swift Ambassador.

Recently, I shadowed two of our three Swift Ambassadors to get a glimpse of their workday on Community Transit’s highest ridership route. This, and an interview or two gave me a taste of what the job is like, along with some tips for riding on Swift shared below.

"Don’t Forget to Wear Comfortable shoes!”

Swift Ambassadors 2014
That’s the advice I got from Will and Mario when we planned our meet-up at the Swift station on northbound 148th and Hwy 99. While I wasn’t planning on wearing high heels (geez, guys, give me some credit), it’s sound advice whenever you’re taking public transportation.

For three hours, Mario and I got on and off the bus at several Swift stations between 148th and Casino Road (between North Lynnwood and South Everett). Fare enforcement probably comes to mind when you think about what Ambassadors do, but there is more to their job than that.

“Swift Ambassadors are 'Customer Service First',” says Mario. “Under that umbrella is fare enforcement, payment education, etc.”

On this particular day:
Ambassadors & Transit Police often work together on the Swift line.
  • Each station we visited got a quick once over to make sure ticket machines and ORCA scanners were up and running. If there’s garbage, it’s picked up. It’s rare to see a messy Swift station. Now you know why.
  • Swift stations are notorious for serving as shopping cart parking. Those had to be moved to a safer spot so at not to roll out onto traffic.
  • Hugs. As we were riding northbound and picked up folks at the 112th St. Station, a regular passenger recognized Mario and gave him a big hug hello as she boarded. She was a tiny, older lady wearing a pink baseball hat giving a big ole bear hug to a man almost two feet taller than she.
  • There’s a learning curve when it comes to using Swift for the first time. A passenger at the Airport Road Station was a little lost and needed direction on where to go. When you are a Swift Ambassador, you are a walking BusPlus book. A friendly one, at that.
  • I witnessed firsthand the friendly interaction and the smooth handoff between Ambassadors and Transit Police. Whether a fare hasn’t been paid or a passenger has an outstanding warrant (you’d be surprised how many our Ambassadors have uncovered when doing a fare check), passengers are treated with courtesy and respect.

In their own words

On what they like most about their job.
“Some might be surprised, but the best part of my job, honestly, is the people. While a few angry or disgruntled passengers might make the day seem a little longer, the vast majority are decent people who appreciate the ride and the work we do,” – Ambassador Nick

“I like the overall diversity of the passengers I encounter daily onboard Swift.” – Ambassador Mario

On their most rewarding experience on the job.
“My most rewarding experience was when someone heeds advice and makes a positive change in their life—and then comes back to give thanks for the good advice.” – Ambassador Will

“I helped a gentleman reach his destination and family—he did not speak English, only Chinese. He was alone and had just arrived from Texas; he had never been to Western Washington. Through mutual trust and communicating with our hands, I was able to ensure he reached his destination. He and his family were grateful; it was really rewarding!” – Ambassador Mario

What misconception about your job would you like to clear up?
“It’s not personal! I’m employed to check the fares of every passenger on every Swift bus I board. If you haven’t paid and I ask you to exit the bus and buy a ticket, I don’t think you are a bad person or form any judgment about you-- I just want you to pay the fare.” – Ambassador Nick

And now for the tips

  • Have your fare ready.
  • Be patient and stay calm. It can be annoying when you are trying to buy a ticket and the bus shows up before you have completed your transaaction. Swift is fast, frequent service for a reason. The next bus will be along sooner than you expect.” – Ambassador Will
  • The ORCA Card makes paying the fare easy. One tap of the card on the reader and you’re good to go. I had trouble getting it to read correctly because I was failing to tap the card in the center of the reader. I finally got it down after the third boarding. Nothing like that “read error” beep and an approaching bus to get you to do it right the first time!
  • ORCA Card Tip from Swift Ambassador Will: if you leave your Swift card against the reader, the information on the screen will remain until you remove your card. Note: this only works on transactions where the screen doesn’t tell you to “Please try again” or “Insufficient Funds."
  • Don’t skip paying your fare. Just. Don’t. After five years riding Swift, the Ambassadors have fine-tuned their methods of visually identifying fare evaders. I won’t expose their methods here, but I can assure you there is no smoke and mirrors used. Just good old-fashioned observation, legwork and getting to know our Swift riders.
  • Don’t be offended if you’re asked to show proof of payment. If you happen to be on the bus when an Ambassador boards, everyone on board will be asked to show their ORCA card, receipt or reduced fare pass— it doesn’t matter if you’re a regular Swift rider and you think the Ambassadors should “know” you. Fare enforcement is just part of the job.
  • Have your fare ready. 

“Some of the riders think that when I’m checking their fare, I am suspecting them and/or accusing them of stealing. This could be farther from the truth! It is my job to check fares of all passengers," says, Ambassador Will.

So, there you have it-- a Swift glimpse of an Ambassador's day. Are there other Community Transit jobs you've been curious about? Let us know in the comments! It may become our next blog post.

* Average monthly fare checks conducted by all three Swift Ambassadors


No comments:

Post a Comment