Transportation for America We need to expand the conversation on transportation security
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Transportation for America We need to expand the conversation on transportation security

We need to expand the discussion on transport safety

We will not be able to significantly address safety issues unless we look at the most dangerous modes of transport.

Transportation for America We need to expand the conversation on transportation security
(Frank Warnock, Delaware Bicycle)

On May 9, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves and Subcommittee on Highways and Public Transportation Chairman Rep. Rick Crawford highlighted a recent increase in crime reports based on data tracked by the FTA. The period covered by the assessment (2020-2022) is among the worst times for public transit as agencies struggled to deliver service, ridership declined and travel behaviors changed across the country.

Transit safety is essential to encouraging communities to use this public resource and enjoy its many benefits, including economic, environmental, and public health benefits. It is essential that federal investments protect taxpayers as they travel. Unfortunately, Representatives Graves and Crawford have failed to address the need to improve the safety of all modes of transportation, including those that are far more dangerous than bus travel.

Between 2020 and 2022, the same period Graves and Crawford highlight, the number of people killed on our roads has skyrocketed. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the projected number of road deaths has risen from 39,007 to 42,795. According to Smart Growth’s America’s Dangerous by Design report, the number of people struck and killed while walking has risen to 7,522 in 2022, a 40-year high.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, passenger car occupants are the leading victims of traffic fatalities, with more than 10,000 deaths per year since 2010. By comparison, non-rail public transportation passengers (e.g., bus passengers) accounted for fewer than 100 traffic fatalities per year. Other modes of public transportation, such as subways, accounted for fewer than 300 traffic fatalities per year. (To fully understand these numbers, note that traffic fatalities, including non-rail public transportation, included only direct deaths, such as deaths caused by collisions. Other modes of public transportation included incident-related deaths, so these deaths are likely overstated by comparison.)

Whether we drive, bike, walk or take public transport, we should be able to travel safely. But when representatives like Crawford derail the conversation to “shine a light” solely on the safety of public transport, it unnecessarily discourages and deters individuals from using public transport, even though it is statistically safer than driving a private vehicle.

Increased funding for operations can help support transit agencies’ efforts to improve safety. Hiring transit ambassadors and hiring safety officers are just two interventions that would support crime mitigation efforts. Working with local services to support housing and mental health could help address crime from many angles.

Public transport ambassadors point passengers in the right direction
(Los Angeles Metro)

Safety must be a priority – no matter how we travel

We are encouraged that federal officials are talking about transportation safety, and we hope that these conversations will translate into increased funding for transit operations and safety. However, to truly address unsafe travel conditions, we must consider the whole picture. We hope that additional action will be taken to address the leading contributor to transportation-related deaths in the U.S.: private vehicles on expressways.

Learn how we can improve safety for all road users by improving street design. Read Dangerous by Design here.