The person riding at the end of that Metro rail car may be an undercover spy — no, not a Russian spy but a covert “mystery shopper” paid to assess how Metro is doing.
The transit agency started its new “mystery rider” program this week, according to a notice General Manager Richard Sarles sent to employees on Friday.
Consider it a notice for Metro workers: The secret riders are on the lookout for good customer service with station managers and bus drivers. They are looking for clean stations and trains and the like.
In December, Metro announced its plans to begin the $679,000, three-year mystery shopper program. It hired Synovate, a Falls Church company to secretly assess the customer service it is providing on its buses and trains with a payment of $252,000 in the first year, plus options for two more years.
Metro had dropped a similar program in 2009 after concerns about the costs during a tight budget year.
The transit agency already hears a lot from riders, who lodge some 40,000 complaints each year and have sustained several blogs and Twitter feeds with their concerns. But agency officials have said they want a more objective measurement that covers all areas.