NEW YORK (PIX11) — Subway station agents are leaving their booths across New York City, MTA officials announced Thursday.

They’ll roam stations to directly engage with riders as part of the “highest possible level of customer service,” NYC Transit President Richard Davey said. Agents are training now and the change will roll out early in 2023.

“Making sure that we’re able to communicate with our customers effectively, to help them around the system, to help them with our coming OMNY system soon, to provide them with directions, to be our eyes and ears inside the station, that’s what today is about,” Davey said. “It’s about the station agents of the future.”

Station agents will help people navigate the transit system, according to the MTA. They’ll also help with fare machines and assist seniors and customers with disabilities. Station agents will work to maintain a safe and clean environment while also reporting quality-of-life issues.

The move is supported by TWU Local 100, the union representing transit workers. Vice President Robert Kelley said it’s about protecting jobs. 

“We can’t sit back and watch our members get phased out along with the MetroCard,” Kelley said. “We are forging a new path with a new role that makes their presence in stations even more vital.” 

The MTA-TWU agreement around the change also increases the pay rate by $1 an hour, according to the TWU. The MTA also plans to hire around 230  new station agents next year. 

“The reason we came into this agreement, frankly, was to put a stake in the ground and say, for NYC Transit, the station agent of the future is critically important to the kind of service we want to provide,” Davey said. “This is our commitment, our joint commitment, to say the intent is for these 2,000-plus station agents to continue to be part of the transit family and to provide heightened level of customer service.”

The move is not supported by the transit advocacy group Passengers United. President Charlton D’souza brought up some problems for both the agents and for riders.

“Having women or older station agents outside the booth walking in a deserted station by themselves could put their lives in danger,” he said. “Many passengers, especially our senior citizens who are disabled, would have a hard time finding station agents if they are walking inside the station beyond the fare control area and need to be buzzed in.”