Kicking off Rail Safety Month with two of the friendliest faces on the Expo Line

As many of you may know, I’m part of the team that monitors Metro’s Twitter, and I’d recently noticed there were quite a few tweets expressing appreciation for some of our safety ambassadors out at 26th St/Bergamot Station. Por ejemplo:

I’m always happy to see positive feedback about our staff, so I decided to go out to Santa Monica and meet the safety ambassadors who were getting such rave reviews. Please keep in mind this is not to say Metro’s other safety ambassadors aren’t worth getting to know. They are all wonderful people who do the job because they truly love interacting with transit riders, and if you want to show the safety ambassador at YOUR station some love, feel free to comment below, tweet us or tag us on Instagram.

The duo stationed at 26th St/Bergamot are Portia Gant and Toni Harrell. Both were bus operators for more than twenty years, so they’re extremely knowledgable about how to get around. Both women are also wellsprings of joyful energy who are out there early in the morning and often the first people many Expo Line commuters meet every day.

“I want everyone to feel welcome on Metro,” said Portia. “We’re out here in the morning so we see a lot of people who are tired, kind of grumpy heading in to work, so we’ll wish them a good day and hopefully get them to smile a little — it sort of changes the tone of their day and makes everything more positive, which I think is really important.”

In the brief time I spent with Portia and Toni, I saw them meet every rider and passerby with a smile. Many of the riders were regular commuters who greet Portia and Toni by name, often pausing to say hi before continuing on. And of course while they might welcome riders and give directions on how to get around, their primary responsibility is to remind people about rail safety.

“The thing we see the most is people walking by with headphones on and not paying attention,” Toni related. “They have their music blasting so loud they don’t hear the bells and whistles, and then they try to cross when there’s a train coming. We always tell folks to at least take out one of the earbuds so they can hear the signals.”

Because the Expo Line in Santa Monica has only been around for a few months, there are still many who may not be well-versed in rail safety. Metro’s safety ambassadors are out there to help educate riders, and here are some other tips to keep in mind when you’re around train tracks:

  1. Use designated crossing areas and wait for the walk/crossing signal.
  2. If the gates are down, do not attempt to go around them.
  3. If a train is coming, be sure to stay behind the yellow warning stripes.
  4. Always stop, look, and listen for trains before crossing the tracks, and be sure to look both ways.
  5. Never race a train to a crossing.
  6. Never climb railroad vehicles or walk on the tracks.
  7. Before starting across the tracks, be sure there’s room to get completely across.

Both Portia Gant and Toni Harrell will be at 26th St/Bergamot Station until December, so make sure to say hello to them if you see them!

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