NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York City subway riders will have some company on the platforms beginning this week.

Station agents with MTA NYC Transit will spend parts of their shifts outside the booth and interacting with passengers. The new job duties start Thursday. 

More than 2,000 people work as station agents. They have traditionally been assigned to the booths. The booth structures will remain in place to be used as home based and communication centers. 

Fifteen of the booths are being converted into customer service centers, which will be staffed. Riders can process some transactions and sign up for reduced-fare services.

Outside the booths, station agents will assist with directions and answer questions. 

Keith Frett is on the job at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Station in Brooklyn. “It’s being continually out there and continually talking to them. We have to be able to rapport once again. They see us everyday and we resolve some of the issues,” Frett said. 

Matthew Patrick is a third generation transit worker. “I can interact with the customers more. They’re not frustrated and I’m not frustrated for not being able to get out and show them what they need to know,” Patrick said as he walked around Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan. 

Some riders told PIX11 News they were surprised. “Not only for New Yorkers, tourists can get some advice and get to it quick,” said a rider headed into Manhattan. 

Here are some of the duties and topics as described by NYC Transit:

  • Wayfinding and assistance at fare machines
  • OMNY payment information
  • Assist customers with disabilities and seniors
  • Enhance customer service during service disruptions and planned changes
  • Report and observe issues related to safety and cleanliness

NYC Transit President Richard Davey said the station agents will get phones and safety training.

“Customer Service Centers are opening across the system, bringing service directly to riders at the stations they use. And in a double win, our station agents will begin their new, enhanced role out of the booth, directly assisting customers,” said Davey.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 worked with management on the plan last year. It includes an hourly pay increase for the additional duties.

“We are showing the world what a world-class transit system looks like,” said TWU Local 100 Vice President for Stations Robert Kelley.

The MTA opened the first Customer Service Centers in February at Stillwell Avenue-Coney Island, 161st Street-Yankee Stadium, and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center. The program expanded to all five boroughs with centers opening at 34th Street-Penn Station, Fulton Center, Myrtle-Wycoff, Flushing-Main Street, and St. George.

“As we continue to smash OMNY records, with two million taps recorded in one day recently, the enhancements to customer service we are implementing by bringing station agents out of the booths and opening more customer service centers will help more riders make the switch to OMNY and start tapping,” said MTA Acting Chief Customer Officer Shanifah Rieara.

Six more centers will open by the end of 2023, including at stations at Sutphin Boulevard, Times Square, Fordham Road and 125th Street in East Harlem.

The agency says more than 40% of riders are using the tap-and-go fare payment system. ONMY cards are available at some retailers and vending machines will be installed later this year.

MetroCards will be in use for at least another year.