Starting as early as next month, BART will provide 10 community service officers, or ambassadors, on trains during peak and late-night commute times.

BART’s Board of Directors approved an allocation of $690,000 to fund the six-month pilot ambassador program in an effort increase safety on trains.

Riders have for years expressed that they feel unsafe, especially late at night and after a number of high-profile cases, including the fatal stabbing of Nia Wilson in July 2018.

BART officials said ambassadors will work in teams of two and be on trains seven days each week from 2 p.m. to midnight, with additional coverage on Saturdays.

The job of the ambassador is to report inappropriate behavior, safety and security issues and biohazards to BART police, transit officials said.

Ambassadors will wear a distinct uniform with BART colors and the word “ambassador” printed on the back of the shirt. They will be unarmed and unsworn, but will work under the direction of the BART Police Department. 

Each ambassador will be given de-escalation and anti-bias training, according to a statement issued by BART officials.

From 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., one team will patrol trains between Walnut Creek and Pittsburg/Bay Point stations and a second team will be positioned between Coliseum and Union City stations.

David Wilson/Wikimedi BART 12th Street/Oakland City Center station in Oakland, Calif.

Two teams will focus on the transbay corridor between 12th Street/Oakland City Center and Civic Center stations from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The proposal had been previously presented to the board, but some members voiced reservations about the use of an outside nonprofit to facilitate the program.

Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated individuals find jobs and currently oversees BART’s successful elevator attendant program, was considered to oversee the ambassador program. However, BART Police Officer’s Association preferred the program be kept in-house.

Director Debora Allen said she opposed the original idea to use Urban Alchemy, but voted Thursday to approve the program using BART’s own CSOs.

Allen said:

“Using a combination of our sworn officers with civilian CSOs who are vetted, hired and trained by our police department is a really easy transition.”

Director Rebecca Saltzman said she was glad to hear staff will monitor the pilot program and, based on success, will support additional funding before the transit agency takes up its budget next June.

Saltzman said:

“People want to see somebody in a BART uniform. It’s very important to them. I know if I’m on a platform, especially late at night out in suburban Contra Costa County… if I see a BART worker cleaning the platform, that makes me very safe. If I see a station agent, that makes me feel safe.”

Additionally, directors approved $890,000 to expand the Coliseum station paid area.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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