How Transit Architecture Impacts Real and Perceived Safety

More than a third of Americans believe major transit systems are too unsafe to ride. The built environment can change that.

1 minute read

April 23, 2024, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Empty hallway lined with white tile in subway station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

jonbilous / Adobe Stock

In an article for WHYY, Owen Racer and Jadon George describe how the built environment in and around transit infrastructure — in Philadelphia and beyond — contributes to a sense of fear among riders, causing them to avoid public transit due to a heightened anxiety created by reports of violent incidents.

Citing Yvette Sheline of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychiatry, the article explains, “From gates and sidewalks to subterranean hallways, the physical environments that make up a transit system can affect how safe people feel using them.”

The article describes a failed SEPTA effort to deploy an AI-powered surveillance tool to scan for firearms in stations and trains, as well as how the architecture of stations can improve visibility and openness and make riders feel safer. While some systems, including SEPTA and New York City’s subway system, are deploying additional law enforcement, Sheline says an increased police presence serves to “raise feelings of anxiety for most riders as it signals the environment is dangerous.”

Sunday, April 21, 2024 in WHYY

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - 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

Gravel walkway along lake at Earvin Magic Johnson Park in Los Angeles County.

‘Parks After Dark’ Helps LA County Communities Thrive

Los Angeles County's popular Parks After Dark program continues to serve communities in need and offer multiple important benefits, as documented in a recent UCLA study.

6 seconds ago - UCLA Newsroom

Delivery drone holding a brown paper wrapped box hoveringin air with city in background.

Utah Establishes Air Mobility Framework

The program outlines a statewide approach to delivery drones and other air transportation options.

1 hour ago - PR Newswire

Amtrak train at Union Station with Chicago skyline in background.

St. Paul-to-Chicago Borealis Rail Line Launches

The Amtrak service, 12 years in the making, doubles the number of available trips on the corridor.

2 hours ago - Route Fifty

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.