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

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Pumping Gas

10 States Where the Gas Tax Is Highest

As the gap between gas tax revenue and transportation funding needs widen across the country, the funding mechanism is drawing increased scrutiny from both public officials and consumers.

June 9, 2024 - The Ascent

Concrete walkway with landscaping, decorative tiles, and picnic tables in a Los Angeles County park.

Wish Granted: Former Brownfield Transformed to New Park

Wishing Tree Park in West Carson, California officially opened last month, replacing a brownfield site with a much-needed green space for recreation and respite.

June 14 - Urbanize LA

"No right turn on red" and "Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" sign.

The Tide is Turning on Right Turns on Red

The policy, which stems from the gas embargo of the 1970s, makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians.

June 14 - NPR

Thick green forest on edge of lake in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Begins Process to Clean Superfund Site

A public forest is home to dozens of barrels that have been leaking toxic materials for decades.

June 14 - Inside Climate News

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.