Opinion: To Improve Transit Safety, Boost Ridership

Research links high ridership levels with lower crime, signaling that, rather than introducing new security measures, transit agencies should focus on bringing riders back to their systems.

2 minute read

April 28, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Metro Subway Los Angeles

Yusef El-Mansouri / Shutterstock

In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Madeline Brozen urges Los Angeles Metro to look to the system’s buses as a model for how to improve transit safety.

While the agency is deploying added security, transit ambassadors, and other tools such as loud music to deter crime in its stations, Brozen writes that those may not be enough to make trains safer. Yet riders on the system’s buses experience far less crime than train users. “Buses aren’t safer because their rubber tires act like crime-fighting vigilantes. The most likely explanation for why buses are safer is because more people use them.”

“As fewer people rode public transit — particularly the train system — social norms eroded. Behaviors changed from minor issues like passengers putting their feet on seats to more concerning behaviors like smoking cigarettes or openly using drugs.” According to Brozen, “The best way forward is to take lessons from the bus and get more people on board to enforce public transit’s social norms.”

To bring back ridership, Brozen suggests “focusing on rail riders who are not weekday commuters,” a strategy recently undertaken by San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (BART). Brozen also recommends activating rail stations, which are often empty and isolated.

Ultimately, “Whatever steps L.A. Metro takes to address crime should be good solutions for transit in general, not just for safety,” and transit can’t solve larger societal problems. But “The bus system’s relationship between more riders and less crime is proof positive” that boosting ridership can be one tool for addressing transit safety.

Thursday, April 27, 2023 in Los Angeles Times

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