Safety Concerns Driving Riders Away From Transit

Public transit systems in major U.S. cities are struggling to restore their image after rising crime rates led to heightened security concerns among riders.

2 minute read

July 12, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


A group of police officers wearing masks during the Covid-19 pandemic gather on a subway platform in New York City.

lev radin / Shutterstock

In a detailed piece in Governing, Jake Blumgart outlines the security issues faced by mass transit systems around the country that are keeping some riders from returning. “There are many reasons why transit ridership has not returned after the pandemic. The major factor, most experts agree, is the rise of remote work for many white-collar professions.” But recurring COVID-19 infection surges and the fear of crime also play important roles.

Blumgart highlights New York City’s transit system, where “Mayor Eric Adams won his election with promises to save New York and its subways through a judicious application of law and order.” Now, six months after Adams took office, “Conservatives feel that Adams hasn’t put enough officers in the subway system and is too focused on social services as an answer. Progressively inclined activist groups argue that while they are not anti-police, overly broad orders to crack down on minor offenses are oppressive and likely to disproportionately target Black riders.”

Blumgart describes the challenges faced by the Adams administration and other city leaders in balancing public safety with equity and efforts to improve social services and housing options for people experiencing homelessness. “As transit agencies face fiscal realities borne of fare losses, they must also confront an existential question of public order alongside the law enforcement institutions that are suffering their own legitimacy crisis.” 

As Blumgart writes, “New York is the Democrat-dominated city most publicly struggling with this tangled knot of policy questions. But all of the nation’s big cities will have to figure out how, or whether, they will have their police maintain the bright lines of conduct on their buses and trains.”

Monday, July 11, 2022 in Governing

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