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“Can’t decide if this is a good idea or a totally wacky”

by Prince Of Petworth May 4, 2016 at 1:00 pm 36 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

Thought id share this — Saw an ad for it on the metro today.

Can’t decide if this is a good idea or a totally wacky shot in the dark. Looks like applications closed but sharing regardless. Not surprised a better name wasn’t thought up… The program is named metro volunteer persons (MVP):

Do you have a great smile? Do you enjoy helping people? Here is your chance to put both together and assist others while giving back to your community.

Join our volunteer pilot program called Metro Volunteer Person (MVP). This unique opportunity will give you the chance to learn about Metro while helping customers and fellow riders. Volunteers should love interacting with people, love transit, of course, and be able to provide exceptional customer service. Volunteers will be standing near fare machines in select stations on Fridays from 3-6pm, to assist customers.

We will provide the training, attire and consistent rewards throughout the program.
– MVP branded attire to wear during each shift
– $20 per shift (automatically loaded to Smartrip card each month)
– Random drawings
– Annual recognition

Interested? Please fill out the application below. After you submit your application, Metro staff will review it and get back to you within two business days. If you are selected, we will send you a background check form to complete. Once your background check is approved by Metro (usually takes 10 days), we will provide dates for training classes. During the training, we will show you how to sign up for shifts. Once you have been trained, you are ready to work! We will give you the tools you need to be easily identified in the stations.

Please note, applications will be accepted up to April 30, 2016.

  • LCinDC

    Sounds like they need employees but, given the budget, are asking for “volunteers” so that they can get away with paying them $6.67/hr…in SmarTrip fare. Nothing about that says MVP…oh wait, free swag tho! Managed Very Poorly.

    • ontarioroader

      Agreed, I’m a little surprised the Metro’s workers Union is ok with this.

  • Anon

    Is this WMATA giving up on Station Managers providing the assistance that they are supposed to give to riders or another tactic by WMATA to get more money? “see we need the $300M to survive we are literally using volunteers because we do not have enough funds” – Future WMATA board quote

    • Ben

      Just frees up Station Managers to sleep more on the job! Honestly though during rush hour I can see this helping at a lot of busy stations. One person can only do so much.

  • textdoc

    Isn’t this the one function that Metro station managers actually perform?? (Other than (sometimes) calling Metro Transit Police?)

  • FridayGirl

    Am I the only one here who thinks station managers might actually be more willing to do the more highly important parts of their job (calling MTPD, etc.) if they don’t have to help tourists with their smarttrip card every 5 minutes?
    I actually got an email about this from WMATA a couple months ago, and while I doubt its the best execution of the idea, it’s not a bad idea in theory — especially during peak tourist season.

    • Nathan

      That presumes station managers are actually helping tourists, and other riders.

      • FridayGirl

        That is true.

        • Roger

          Considering the time I tried to get in at Foggy Bottom during rush hour and the station manager openly ignored me standing and occasionally tapping on the glass (because the ‘talk here’ button wasn’t working) for 5 minutes until I knocked harder and pointed out the line of 10 people behind me also waiting on her to respond to anyone … I don’t think station managers do much besides collect a paycheck.

    • metro

      Yes, you are. How much effort does it take to call MPD? I mean seriously, that’s like a 2 minute phone call. What do they do the other 7 hours and 58 minutes of the day? And really is the question here whether station managers would be more “willing” to do the required portions of their job? I might even say that calling the police when necessary is part of just being a contributing member of society.

  • Oh, I’d be great at this!

    Tourist: What’s that smell?
    Me (cheerfully): It’s just another train on fire.
    Tourist: How long are we going to be stopped in this tunnel?
    Me (smiling): Who knows? Use the opportunity to count the times the train driver jerks back and forth!
    Tourist: How do I get to…?
    Me (super helpful): Walk up the (broken) escalator and find a cab/Uber at…

    Too bad the application process is closed!

    • LittleBluePenguin


    • Caroline

      I work in Crystal City so I have a lot of opportunities to answer tourist’s questions. I love giving them honest responses like those. :)

      • Cassie

        How many times do you have to explain to people that the first station after Pentagon on the yellow line IS actually L’Enfant Plaza and NOT Federal Center SW, despite what the signs on the platform say? I do it twice a day at least.

    • victoria

      Sadly, too funny!

  • jdre

    I imagine it means they recognize that the employees that are supposed to be doing this fail at it. They can’t fire them, for contract and labor relations reasons, I assume. They can’t pay someone else a lot to do it, because they already pay someone to (not) do it. So all they’re left with is the option of getting volunteers to do it for minimal direct cost, but hopefully enough of a perk to make someone do it. I don’t know how it will pan out, but it’s nice to see someone trying to improve the sh!tshow, however wacky the attempt may be.

    • Bloomy


  • victoria

    But you get “attire!!!”

  • Truxton Thomas

    Neither—it’s desperate. “Maybe if we get a workforce willing to work for free…?”

  • skj84

    I don’t think this is a horrible idea. I mean, I have some issue with the lack of compensation. But extra hands to guide people through the stations? Not a bad idea. Especially when the station managers are deluged with multiple customers at once.

  • TinkerTaylor

    Not an employment attorney, but think that the $20 metro credit/shift may raise a credible claim that it is compensation. Which could give rise to an assertion by the volunteer that they were an employee. And, on that basis, claims such as wage and hour, discrimination, etc.

    It wasn’t that long ago a tide of costly cases related to unpaid internships caused many organizations to begin compensating interns.

    • skj84

      That’s my major issue with this program. Why not pay a real wage for what will undoubtedly be a stressful customer service role? You are expecting people to be on their feet dealing with unexpected circumstances? They need to be paid real money.

      • anon

        We do pay a real and IMO over compensated rate to our station managers for this. If it were not for the ATU and lack of accountability maybe we could replace overly paid employees with enthusiastic employees that do what is required of there positions and not have to skate these grey areas just to get basic customer service.

        • textdoc


        • skj84

          agree to disagree. Yes, there are managers who don’t do their jobs correctly. But I don’t think every employee who works at Metro is a lazy slob who exists to mooch our taxes. Yes, I’ve run into employees who don’t give a shit, but I have been helped by those who do. I do think there is an element of understaffing, and being pulled 3 ways at once. Again, I don’t think its a perfect system at all. But I’m a bit uncomfortable with labeling all Metro employees as incompetent is fair either(Full disclosure a family member of mine is a bus driver for Metro. He does care deeply about his job and takes it seriously. He actually was attacked on his bus a few years ago.)

          • FridayGirl

            +1. I’ve encountered more helpful employees (and have witnessed a lot of the bs they have to deal with first hand) than lazy ones. I think that working for an industry where a large number of customers view most employees as unhelpful, tax-mooching slobs is probably not great for morale either. Hell, if you work with people that don’t do much and get paid — and then you have customers being rude to you all day — what incentive does that leave aside from individual motivation? That gets hard even for the best of us.

    • Bloomy


    • Philippe Lecheval

      Yep. They’re clearly attempting to circumvent the union, whose employees are clearly incapable or unwilling to perform the duties for which they were hired. Mixed feelings on this.

    • jumpingjack

      +1. I had the exact same reaction.

  • jcm

    It sounds like this is similar to the old guys who volunteer at the airport to help people find their way around. Seems reasonable to me.

    • James

      Agreed. This sounds like the various BIDs hiring people to answer questions from tourists. Maybe in an ideal world Metro would hire ppl instead but at least they are trying something to improve the system.

      • ontarioroader

        Most of the BID frontline staff are part of ex-criminal offender workforce programs.

  • lisavfr

    Does the gig come with one of those nifty employee vests so you can park all day for free in any Kiss & Ride lot? http://unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com/2009/05/are-metro-employees-abusing-kiss-ride.html

  • Mike

    “Volunteers should…be able to provide exceptional customer service.” Lol, Metro. You’ll take what you can get and you’ll like it.

  • atlascesar

    I used to make “random drawings” when I was in grade school. Great way to pass the time; excellent perk!

    • Cherry

      LOL :-)


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