August 30, 2019
"Getting There" - Metro-North's Ambassador
Anthony Scasino is an ambassador, not for a foreign country, but for Metro-North. He doesn’t have a consulate or embassy, just the Stamford Railroad station as his headquarters.
Scasino is one of six Customer Service Ambassadors (CSA) who work at the railroad’s busiest stations… White Plains, Harlem – 125th St, Fordham, New Rochelle, Croton-Harmon and Stamford. Having passed muster during a six month trial, the program is now permanent and may be expanded.
Scasino has worked for Metro-North for six and a half years, having previously been a ticket agent at Stamford. Now he dons a bright blue and yellow vest emblazoned with “Customer Service” on the back and helps customers in the main concourse and on the platforms.
“I really like helping people,” he says. “I hold doors open, give people directions… anything they need help with, even their luggage.”
When Scasino starts his shift at 6 am the station is already busy with commuters heading into the city. Though some have recently complained about the homeless camping out overnight in the waiting area, Scasino says he leaves that issue to the security team and a social services agency, BRC, which is hired by the MTA to get the homeless off the benches and into appropriate shelters. But a recent report by the Office of the NY State Comptroller says the $14 million spent by MTA on homeless outreach has been a failure.
Unlike Grand Central Terminal which closes each night from 2 to 5:30 am, the Stamford station remains open 24 hours for cleaning and the few passengers catching Amtrak’s overnight trains.
Scasino sees a lot of regular commuters each morning who say hello on their way to the tracks. In one case he actually saved a blind woman on an escalator from a nasty fall.
At some hours there is a lot of crowding on the Stamford platforms as trains arrive, unloading passengers while others wait to board, but Scasino says he’s never seen a problem he thought would prove dangerous. “Commuters are pretty sharp,” he says. “They know to stay back from the platform edge. That’s why we have that yellow warning strip.”
And they know exactly where to position themselves on the platform to be near the train’s door when it opens, giving them quick access to limited seating.
One of the reasons Stamford station needs a CSA is that the station is so confusing and still lacks adequate signage. For example, there is no local map posted in the station where people can see the station in relation to downtown and how to get there.
Years ago, when Swiss Bank was still active in town I remember seeing nattily dressed businessmen arrive on trains from New York and make their way to the taxi stand. On entering the cab they’d say ‘Swiss Bank please’ and off they’d go for 2 blocks and about a $10 fare even while the bank’s headquarters were just 250 yards from the station.
Arrive by train at the smallest village in Europe and there’s always a map in the station to guide you. But not in Stamford. Still, that isn’t Metro-North’s fault but CDOT’s which owns and runs the station.
Right now Scasino only works a morning shift, but there may be plans to expand the Ambassadors’ coverage to afternoon rush hours and even weekends. Clearly, the railroad is working hard to improve its image and the service they provide, especially to new riders and visitors.
Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media