Why our Metro Ambassadors do what they do  

You’ve likely seen them riding our trains (and some buses). You’ve probably seen them walking the platforms at our stations. Ever since the pilot program officially launched in March 2023, Metro Ambassadors have become known as our green-shirted friendly faces –– quick to greet you, answer your questions, report issues, and connect you to the resources you need. Today, you’ll find more than 300 of them patrolling our system to assist our riders, making the program one of the largest of its kind. And it’s making a difference, too. Between October 2022 and April 2024, Metro Ambassadors have: 

  • Helped over one million people! 
  • Made over 3700 safety-related submissions on our Transit Watch app 
  • Made over 1000 phone calls to 911 or our security ops center  
  • Saved 215 lives (166 using NARCAN, which ambassadors began carrying mid-April 2023; 49 with CPR and suicide intervention) 

They aren’t patrolling our system alone, of course. They work very closely with other public safety teams and partners that, collectively, help keep our massive system safe. That means Transit Security Officers (TSOs), law enforcement, contracted security, as well as homeless outreach workers and crisis intervention teams. “When I arrive at each station, I greet the TSOs or any other teams who may be patrolling the system,” says Oscar Gomez, 48, who joined our Metro Ambassador team in April, 2023. “I always make a point of making sure that they have my back and I have theirs. We’re all working together –– that’s the rapport I want to build.”  

Our ambassadors come from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities –– reflecting the diversity of Los Angeles. Many have called Los Angeles home for most of their lives. Take David Moreland, 70, who has worked as a Metro Ambassador for over one year and a half. Talk to him, and you’ll soon find that he has decades of experience working with other people –– unquestionably one of the most important qualifications for the job. After serving in Vietnam, where he worked as a medic, he worked for the Long Beach School District … and even drove a bus in Long Beach for twelve years!  

He found out about the Metro Ambassador program from a friend at his church, where Moreland volunteers as a greeter. “You just have a feel for people,” his friend told him.  

“You have to bend with the wind in this job. You have to have a looseness about you.” — David Moreland

“This isn’t like any other job I’ve had,” Moreland tells me. “You are out there engaging in all types of situations.” This can mean anything from helping a stranded tourist catch a cab when she doesn’t speak a word of English to reporting malfunctioning equipment to literally saving lives. During his tenure as an Ambassador, Moreland has resuscitated five people –– three by administering NARCAN, and two using CPR.  

“I want to help people in any way I can,” Moreland says. “I am good at my job because I take the work to heart.” 

This was a recurring theme in my conversations with Metro Ambassadors. They’re “people people,” so to speak, who thrive off interaction. Case in point: Perla Chevarria, 34, whose mom works as a bus operator at Metro. After seeing teams of friendly green shirts board her bus, she suggested that Perla apply to the program. At the time, Perla was working as a licensed vocational nurse at an assisted living facility (she still is!), and she knew her experience would make a difference. “I love talking to people,” she told me. “When people are having a bad day, I enjoy listening and letting them know that I’m there for them.”  

When I asked Perla if she could remember her most challenging day on the job, she paused for a minute. “Almost eight months ago, I lost my dad to cancer. It was really tough to come to work the next day and put a smile on my face,” she said. “That day, however, I met an unhoused person who hadn’t eaten anything all day. As I was helping him, he took the time to ask how I was doing. I told him my story, and he gave me the most heartfelt look: ‘How do you keep a smile on your face?’ In an instant, one of my most challenging days became the most rewarding.”  

“I love what I do. When I come in, I give it 150%.” — Perla Chevarria

“LA is a tough place. It’s easy to get discouraged. So, it’s rewarding to end my shift knowing that I might have touched someone’s day.” — Aryna Moore

Oscar Gomez started as a Metro Ambassador in April 2023. He wasn’t looking for this job; in fact, he stumbled on it on a job website by accident. Yet he knew that working with people, face-to-face, was his forte.  

I asked Gomez about the questions customers frequently ask him. They run the gamut, he tells me: everything from wayfinding to fares to what we’re doing about public safety. Gomez says that navigating mental health issues he’s seen on the system has been the most challenging aspect of the job. A lot of questions he receives come from unhoused riders. “I knew that homelessness was a big issue –– but until I started working here, I didn’t realize the scope of it.” Nor does everyone necessarily want the help that the ambassadors offer. In these situations, Gomez hands customers information cards with numbers to PATH (one of the homeless outreach agencies we partner with) and various other resources. “I tell them that there is help out there whenever they feel ready.”   

“One takeaway from this job –– people are more compassionate than I realized.”  — Oscar Gomez

When you work as a Metro Ambassador, you can always count on the fact that there will be new opportunities to learn and grow. Chevarria told me that the job has given her a deeper appreciation for LA’s incredible diversity; “So many languages, so many ethnicities, so many cuisines!” Moreland has noticed that the program has become more formalized as his team fine-tuned their approaches based on customer responses. “When I started, we didn’t have checkpoints and sweeps at stations, and we didn’t classify engagements as we do now,” he says. Gomez observed that the job has helped him understand what it means to be an Angeleno. “There are challenges, for sure, but LA is adaptable and resourceful and strong,” he says. “And people are more compassionate than I realized.”   

 

Categories: Transportation News

7 replies

  1. Yes! It would be nice not be held hostage by rude non-paying customers, playing INCREDIBLY LOUD MUSIC! Bus Drivers doesn’t do anything! SMH to get off the Bus with a raging headache!

  2. Need more of these folks systemwide and that includes the buses. If we can pare down the police budget – – because they clearly haven’t been bothered enough to do much more than sit in their cars or stand around platforms– we can double or triple the ambassadors and deploy them to key areas because until things change, the cops we’re paying aren’t “taking orders from a bus company.”

  3. I love when the ambassadors board the train! Especially when there are problematic people and activities happening aboard. They problems usually scurry as they enter! They really do deter! I like the idea that they are literally always there when you need them!

  4. Such an improvement on your system! I’m a frequent visitor to the LA area and was not using the metro for quite a while, unless it was necessary. Our last couple trips were a complete turnaround. The friendly ambassadors offer to help at each station and other riders – some who could be troubling to travel with – are not apparent. I’ll be using your services on my future trips. Thank you.

  5. I rode the Metro A line for the first time in almost a year recently with an out-of-town companion who visits regularly and we were impressed by the improved cleanliness of the trains and stations but especially the presence of the ambassadors, who seemed to be everywhere. They were helpful in giving directions both inside and outside during my first visit to one of the new connector stations downtown and it was a more relaxed experience using the system with them visible and communicating with their counterparts by radio. One ambassador even sought us out as we waited for the train with a reminder tip about the longer expiration period on the newer TAP cards. I hadn’t noticed that mine was about to expire so that was truly a blessing since I could start the process of applying for a new one. Thank you, sir! Please hire more of these wonderful folks.

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