How Inequality Impacts Transit Safety

Transit workers are being assaulted by riders at alarming rates, and inequity may be partly to blame.

2 minute read

December 8, 2023, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Woman bus driver sitting behind wheel of bus wearing long-sleeved shirt and yellow safety vest.

Drazen / Adobe Stock

“According to new research from the Urban Institute, America's transit workforce is experiencing an alarming increase in violent attacks, with incidents that resulted in a death or hospitalization climbing from 168 in 2008 to 492 in 2022,” reports Kea Wilson in Streetsblog USA. The study shows this may be in part due to larger issues such as poverty and inequality.

According to Lindiwe Rennert, senior research associate for the Urban Institute, “before disproportionately low-income and radically marginalized passengers even arrive at a bus or a train stop, they're carrying the weight of an unjust and violent society. And once they arrive, those indignities are often mirrored in the transit experience itself, including long waits at unsheltered stops with no seats, steep fares they can't afford, police violence if they're unable to pay, route maps, schedules, and services that weren't designed with their actual needs in mind, and a universe of other frustrations that can all too easily boil over.” In other words, the violence is often a result of the broader “rampant inequality that plagues riders,” or “how the public is lashing out from other inefficiencies.”

While these issues require solutions far outside the scope of transit agencies, Rennert says “improving service can be a ‘first step’ to calming transit riders’ frayed nerves, as can removing fares that often become a flashpoint for an assault.” Other suggestions include “physically separating drivers from passengers in clear-walled compartments, taking the burden of fare collection off of operators by enlisting ambassadors or eliminating fares entirely, and providing workers with de-escalation training to diffuse violent situations.”

Thursday, December 7, 2023 in Streetsblog USA

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of suburban sprawl with large single-family homes near Dallas, Texas.

The Changing Shape of American Suburbs

Housing costs and availability are pushing more American households, including young families, to suburbs and exurbs — and they’re demanding changes.

February 13, 2024 - Business Insider

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

Google street view of wide grassy median in Beverly Hills, California.

Beverly Hills Installs First ‘Green Street’

A three-block median featuring native plants and bioswales is part of the city’s broader effort to reduce water consumption and pollution.

February 22 - Beverly Press

Habitat for Humanity volunteers in construction helmets buildign a wood-frame house.

Habitat for Humanity and Missoula Land Trust Team up on Affordable Housing

The partnership will ensure the new homes will remain affordable for future buyers.

February 22 - KPAX

Orange California poppies in bloom over gently rolling hills in Southern California's Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.

Experiencing California's Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Located in the western Mojave Desert, this stunning state natural reserve is renowned for its breathtaking displays of California poppies and has even been referred to as California's most beautiful place.

February 22 - California.com

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The Walkable City

Harvard GSD Executive Education

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

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.