Safer Than You Think! Revising the transit safety narrative


Todd Litman

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - mass transit, place - north america, planning - personal safety/crime, planning - safety/accidents


safety, low crime, low crash rates, security


Public transportation is overall safe (low crash risk) and secure (low crime risk). Transit travel has about a tenth the traffic casualty (death or injury) rates as automobile travel, and residents of transit-oriented communities have about a fifth the per capita traffic fatality rate as do residents of automobile-oriented communities. Transit also tends to have lower crime rates than automobile travel, large cities with high transit ridership tend to have lower crime rates than more automobile-oriented cities, and transit service improvements can further increase security by increasing surveillance and improving impoverished people’s economic opportunities. Despite its overall safety and security, many people consider transit dangerous and so are reluctant to use it or support transit service expansions in their communities. Various factors contribute to this excessive fear, including the nature of public transit travel, heavy media coverage of transit-related crashes and crimes, and conventional traffic safety messages which emphasize risks rather than safety. Public officials and transit agencies can help create a new transit safety narrative by developing better risk evaluation tools, better communicating public transit’s overall safety and health benefits, and providing better guidance concerning how transit users and communities can enhance safety and security.


Permission to link to the report has been given by Victoria Transport Policy Institute, copyright remains with them.