Safer than you think! Revising the transit safety narrative

Todd Litman


Public transportation is a safe form of travel. Total per capita traffic casualties tend to decline as public transit travel increases in a community. However, many people have the misimpression that transit is dangerous, and so are reluctant to use it or support transit service expansion in their communities. Various factors contribute to this transit dread (excessive and irrational fear), including conventional traffic safety messages, heavy media coverage of transit-related crashes and crimes, and the nature of public transit, which requires travel with strangers in confined spaces. In addition, the transit industry has responded to crime and terrorist risks with messages that emphasize fear and unusual dangers. There is much that public transit agencies can do to change the narrative to emphasize the overall safety of public transit travel, to improve passengers’ sense of security, and to provide better guidance concerning how passengers and communities can enhance public transport safety and security.