CLEVELAND (WJW) – In an effort to crack down on fare evasion, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority announced a pilot program that will use transit ambassadors instead of armed police officers.
“We are looking at using ambassadors for the entire transit system, but because it’s a six-month pilot project, there will be some areas that have more coverage than others,” said RTA police chief Deirdre Jones.
According to Jones, the RTA plans to hire 10 unarmed civilians to check whether riders have paid fares, as well as social workers trained in crisis intervention.
“Those people will be put in place to provide outreach for mental health, people who may have alcohol and substance abuse issues or shelter issues,” said Jones.
They will be seven days a week, working first and second shifts and stationed on buses, trains and at transit stops.
According to the chief, the ambassador is a paid position. However, details are still being sorted out and it’s information that the transit workers union is eager to know.
“I think we have to see how it plays out,” said William Nix, president of ATU Local 268.
Nix said the RTA did not involve the union with any planning of the program.
“If it is additional employees and manpower and not taking away from my members and FO, I think it’s a good thing,” said Nix.
Nix said he hopes it assists his members who regularly deal with the homeless population.
“We hear about how they just stay on the bus, won’t get off the bus, give them a hard time on the train, even sleeping on the train. And it’s even scarier because of COVID,” said Nix.
Jones said the positions will be paid for by RTA funding, as well as grant funding that has not yet been secured.
She said recruitment will most likely begin next spring and the program will launch next fall.