How California Transit Agencies are Addressing Rider Harassment

Safety and harassment are commonly cited reasons passengers, particularly women and girls, avoid public transit.

2 minute read

April 17, 2024, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Woman with long hair wearing Covid mask sitting on underground train station bench looking at her watch as subway train approaches in background at Hollywood/Western station in Los Angeles, California.

rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock

“Street harassment is a common phenomenon that many public-transit riders, but especially women and girls, experience on buses and trains, in stations and at bus stops, as they travel between their homes, jobs, schools, events, and recreational activities.” Gabrielle Gurley notes this stark fact at the top of an article in The American Prospect.

In an effort to reduce harassment and make transit safer for women and girls, California legislators passed a law calling for a survey of transit riders’ experiences with harassment, and a second law requiring major transit agencies to collect passenger data on harassment.

In response to user surveys and data about harassment, San Francisco’s BART and Los Angeles Metro launched transit ambassador programs that staff transit stations with unarmed security personnel. “For its part, BART started running shorter trains. Fewer cars with more people on each car helps people feel safer. After this change, the agency has had fewer incidents involving police.”

The agencies are also including zero-tolerance language in their policies and conducting outreach about harassment and available resources, such as emergency call buttons that some passengers are unaware of.

According to the article, “LA Metro saw its highest ridership increases last year after its high-profile moves to offer information services and deploy more security officers, transit ambassadors, crisis intervention specialists, and workers to handle people suffering from drug abuse and homelessness. The agency also made numerous facility safety improvements, adding new lighting, additional call boxes, station music, and modified entrances.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 in The American Prospect

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