MBTA Case Study

Block by Block serves the MBTA

In 2015 the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) began searching for a more cost efficient solution for providing in-station customer assistance. The recognized cost efficiencies would allow the system to deliver more coverage to the most heavily traversed stations in the system, which is known as ‘The T’. Much of the need to implement broader customer service was influenced by the mandate given to the agency to better serve those riders having disabilities.

After seeing Block by Block’s many friendly faces of its Downtown Boston Business Improvement District’s Ambassador program, the MBTA engaged Block by Block to learn more about our services, along with our philosophies of culture and proactive engagement, which drive those great interactions in downtown Boston.

After a formal interview to share our ideas and strategies we were awarded a two-station pilot program. One of those stations was the Chinatown station, which long have been plagued by socially unacceptable issues related to the transient population in that neighborhood. The addition of the highly visible Ambassadors has been credited with improving not only the perception of safety of that station, but the feeling of cleanliness as many of the unacceptable behaviors generated cleaning issues for the station. The visibility of the Ambassadors in those stations was greatly attributed to the requirement for Ambassadors to be present in the entrances, near the areas where ticket machines are located and on the platforms. Many riders commented in the first few days that there was a much more positive vibe to the stations by having a smiling face in the station.

Upon conclusion of the two month pilot program there was an overwhelming feeling that the program had been highly successful. This led to an expansion of 11 more stations within the core of the system, followed by expansion ot 17, then 24 then 31 stations in the system.

The addition of friendly, helpful people was obviously one of the desired outcomes of the Transit Ambassador program. In fact some referred to this as one of the few initiatives in memory that received unanimous public approval.

There was however a significant secondary benefit recognized by the MBTA.  The agency realized a considerable reduction in fare evasion. Having an actively engaged, uniformed presence has been impactful on the number of riders who would piggy back in or jump the fare gates. While it’s hard to predict how much fare evasion has been reduced, estimates range as low as 8% and as high as 24%, which means that a significant amount of expense related to the Ambassador program is recovered through riders paying the expected fare.

If you find yourself in Boston, make sure to say hello to one of our friendly Transit Ambassadors!

The Block by Block Transit Ambassador Program by the Numbers:

Most widely recognized program with a positive impact.

  • Number of Transit Ambassadors – 271
  • Stations Serviced – 44 Core Stations with multiple positions in many stations
  • Number of persons assisted in 2019 – 234,000+
  • Number of disabled riders assisted – 41,000+
  • Number of incidents reported – 2,350
  • Reduction in fare evasion – 8%-24%
  • Smiles and Greetings Provided – Millions
  • Issues deterred – Countless

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