Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, mode - rail, ridership - young people, place - australasia, planning - personal safety/crime


Perceptions, actual experience, Melbourne, young people


This paper aims to explore how perceptions of safety relate to actual experience in the context of urban public transport. It presents the results of an empirical analysis of links between perceptions of personal safety on public transport and compares these with actual experience of travellers. The focus of the work is a survey of young people using public transport in Melbourne Australia.
The research literature demonstrates contrasting views with regard to perceptions of personal safety and actual risks. Positive links have been found in some contexts while others have found fears to be unrelated to risk. Some crime surveys and empirical studies suggest perceptions of personal safety are not justified by crime rates. However a series of surveys have shown that those with direct experience of safety incidents have greater concerns with safety. Other research suggests that feelings of anxiety and psychological factors act to make some people feel uncomfortable on public transport and that this acts to increase perceptions of poor personal safety. The paper aims to explore which factors are more important in explaining perceptions of safety.
The analysis has identified a series of three statistically significant models which predict personal feelings of safety on public transport using different measures of safety perceptions. In each model psychological influences i.e. „feeling comfortable with people you don‟t know‟ had the biggest individual influence on perceptions of safety with a medium effect size. Gender and the actual experience of a personal safety incident were also found to influence perceptions of personal safety but these variables only had a small effect on perceptions of safety.
The paper discusses policy and research implications of the findings including suggestions for future research.