Starting Friday, riders on Metro Transit's Blue and Green lines can expect to see more agents checking fares and educating passengers on how to behave.

Clad in royal blue jackets and sporting patches that read "Trip Agent," team members will work in concert with police officers and non-sworn community service officers to provide an increased official presence on light-rail trains. It's part of Metro Transit's concerted effort to beat back crime and make transit safer.

TRIP stands for Transit Rider Investment Program, which is among 40 action steps outlined in the agency's Safety and Security Plan devised to address issues including homelessness, smoking, drug use and fare evasion — which have all plagued the system in recent years.

"With the launch of TRIP agents, there is going to be another set of personnel on our system who will be inspecting fares, issuing citations, and more," said General Manager Lesley Kandaras during a kickoff event Thursday at a light-rail maintenance facility in downtown St. Paul. "Everyone who rides on Metro Transit and everyone who works at Metro Transit deserves a safe and comfortable experience."

As many as 24 TRIP agents will fan out from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily after completing field training in the coming weeks. The agents will check to ensure riders have paid, and can issue a $35 administrative citation to those who have not. Additionally, agents will address riders who violate Metro Transit's Code of Conduct, and call for police when necessary.

Besides enforcing the rules, agents will provide information about routes and schedules, connect those in need with social service programs, and administer first aid and Narcan, a medicine that reverses opioid overdose.

Crime on Metro Transit buses and trains jumped 32% in 2023 compared with the previous year. But data also showed a sharp decline over the last nine months of 2023, as the agency put more police and community service officers on the system.

Metro Transit also partnered with 10 community-based organization and hired Allied Universal Security Services to post unarmed guards at seven rail platforms and transit stations. Allied security guards will serve as TRIP agents through April 2025, with $11 million in transit funds bankrolling the initiative.

With TRIP agents patrolling the rails, community service officers will transition to conducting fare inspections on rapid bus lines, Metro Transit said.

TRIP agents won't be a cure-all, said Rep. Brad Tabke, D-Shakopee, who pushed for transit funding included in a bill passed by the Legislature last year. But the agents are another step in making trains safer and bringing riders back. Ridership was up 16% last year, amounting to about 60% of pre-pandemic levels, according to Metro Transit.

"We are not where we need to be yet in making sure we are inviting and welcoming everybody onto the train," Tabke said at Thursday's media briefing. "As we have more TRIP agents on the trains, and making sure they are out there every single day talking to folks ... making sure everybody is being a good friend, good neighbor and good transit rider, then we're at the point where it's back to a system everybody can ride on safely and comfortably."