RTA launches new mobile ticketing program by hiring Transit Ambassadors to enforce payment

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s board of directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $2.7 million contract to upgrade its fare collection system as it prepares to hire its first Transit Ambassadors to help enforce payment.

EZFare mobile ticketing, through the Transit app, will allow passengers to plan a trip, track real-time routes, and pay fares, all in one place. A launch event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 22 in the public square.

Riders with prepaid passes on the old ticketing program, Passport Labs, will have until the end of the year to use them, officials said. They estimated that there were approximately 19,000 unused passes in the system; no new passes will be issued after May.

The new scheme will simplify fare collection and streamline ridership, CEO and Managing Director India Birdsong said when introducing the contract at a committee meeting.

The app is expected to help create a connected regional transportation system by linking GCRTA’s systems with other NEORide agencies, including Laketran in Lake County, ARTA in Stark County, and METRO RTA in Akron. In the trip planning section, users will be able to see which methods of public transport – bikes, scooters, trains, buses – are needed to get to their desired location.

They can pay for each of these rides in the app or via a preloaded smart card. Fare boxes will also remain available for cash payments, “being the primary means of fare collection,” said Michael Lively, director of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Department, previously.

Eventually, the app and smartcards will also offer fare capping, to prevent passengers from paying more than the price of a daily or monthly pass.

The change comes as RTA also prepares to launch its “transit ambassadors” program on rail lines, the Healthline and other high-traffic routes to deter fare evasion without calling in armed police.

The agency is looking to hire eight civilians who will be integrated into the transit police and will be responsible for verifying whether passengers have paid fares. Two social workers trained in crisis intervention will also be on site to deal with situations involving homeless users or those with mental health or addiction problems.

Ambassadors may also be called upon to assist with medical emergencies, assist passengers in navigating or using the fare system, and be an additional watchdog ensuring the safety of rides, according to a job posting on the GCRTA website.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and at least one year of community service or similar experience interacting with people. Pay starts at $19.58 an hour, the posting says.

the crisis intervention specialists must have at least an associate’s degree in psychology, sociology, social work or a related field, at least two years of professional experience in social work and experience in homelessness or health programs behavioral.

The starting salary is $56,920.

Lance B. Holton