Subway station agents will leave booths to patrol platforms under a new policy announced by the MTA on Thursday.
The change goes into effect next year — and officials said the agents will be equipped with cell phones to notify MTA managers or the NYPD if they find problems in their stations. They’re also being trained on how to help riders with accessibility problems.
It’s a historic shift for the station workers, who until the 1990s managed thousands of dollars in cash and subway tokens each day and were required to be locked inside the booths throughout their shifts.
But transit officials have aimed to change the workers’ duties since subway tokens were phased out in 2003. And now, as the MTA’s new OMNY tap-and-pay system is slated to fully replace MetroCards, Transport Workers Union Local 100 officials came to an agreement to make station agents more mobile.
“The OMNY posed a serious threat, we refused to get left behind, like the MetroCard and the tollbooth clerks at Bridge and Tunnel,” TWU Local 100 Vice President Robert Kelley said during a press event with the MTA. “As we move forward we know they’re going to be a vital part of the way we do business.”
New York City Transit President Richard Davey said he expects the agents to walk around the stations to check conditions as well.
“Being able to move about is a far better approach than being stationary behind a booth with very limited view,” Davey said.
As part of the labor agreement, the station agents will see their hourly pay of $33.44 increase by $1.
The MTA employs roughly 2,400 station agents, according to the TWU — and the agency expects to hire an additional 235 people for the job during the first half of 2023.
When they sold tokens, station booth agents were big targets for smash-and-grab criminals, as booths in busy stations would hold more than $10,000 in cash and tokens.
Though they no longer carry bounties of cash, booths in stations today are highly secured, with bulletproof glass and locked steel doors.