SEPTA is replacing security guards with guides to offer kinder service to riders

The guides will use a less confrontational method to remind riders about SEPTA rules including fare evasion and smoking policies.

An empty SEPTA train car. (Anna Orso/Billy Penn)

An empty SEPTA train car. (Anna Orso/Billy Penn)

SEPTA is making a change and removing private security guards assigned to the transit agency. The guards will be replaced with new workers in the SEPTA Guides program.

The agency’s Andrew Busch said the new guides will serve as ambassadors, working at stations along the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines as well as riding SEPTA vehicles in the city.

They will perform a variety of tasks, Busch said. “Everything from reminding riders about the rules of the system, which include quality of life issues, including people who are smoking on the system to fare evasion.”

The goal is to take away the quasi-police powers of the guards and replace it with people who will remind customers about the rules for riding, assist destination-less riders and contact police only when necessary.

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Busch adds some of the guides will be used to help shut down stations at the end of the night to give police more time to do other duties.

Three private companies will provide up to 88 guides, who will be split evenly between the morning and evening shifts.  Busch said the hiring will be “reflective of the communities that we serve and the diverse ridership that SEPTA has.”

The guides are part of an effort started last year to help with homeless outreach.  Last September the SEPTA board approved adding more than 50 social workers to help with the effort.

Busch said the guides will be equipped with specialized training to ensure they are prepared with the necessary resources to serve riders.

The first of the guides should begin arriving on the system next month along with social outreach workers from Merakey Parkside Recovery, Eagle Staffing and One Day at a Time. The outreach workers will be paired with SEPTA Transit Police officers for patrols.

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SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel said the partnership with the outreach workers will allow them to reach people who otherwise might be hesitant to accept help from police.

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