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

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