State Bill Would Ask Transportation Agencies To Study Crime, Safety On Transit


If you don’t study it, you can’t fix it.

That’s the premise behind proposed legislation authored by an Orange County state senator that would direct the top 10 transportation agencies in California to survey users of public transportation about safety, sexual harassment, and racial and gender-based discrimination.

Senate Bill 434, introduced on Monday, Feb. 13 by state Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, would order transit agencies to find out what kind of harassment, threats or assaults riders experience or fear — and where. A key focus would be on women of color including Asian-American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The information would be used to address safety issues ranging from street harassment that can cause people to avoid public transit entirely, to threats and hate crimes.

Min says he hopes to reverse the decline of women using public transit because they don’t feel safe or comfortable on a bus or train, or waiting at a station.

“It is important to understand who gets targeted, when and where. When we don’t have data, we don’t know what the answer is,” Min said during an interview on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

Today, I’m proud to join @StopAAPIHate and announce #SB434. My bill requires California’s top 10 public transit systems to collect survey data as a critical step towards improving ridership safety, addressing street harassment, and bringing riders back to public transit. 1/

— Senator Dave Min (@SenDaveMin) February 13, 2023

He authored related legislation last year, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, that taps the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University to create a survey about transit safety, which transit agencies will distribute and administer.

His twin legislation will make it easier and less costly for agencies to study the broad problem, he said.

The agencies involved are Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), LA Metro, Long Beach Transit, City of Los Angeles DOT, San Francisco Muni, Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (BART), Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit), Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Sacramento Regional Transit District and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.

“Who is targeted?” Min asked. “When and where, and in what areas? Are there certain (train or bus) lines where this happens? The ‘why,’ you may start inferring, but we think women and girls get targeted more.”

A report by Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit group, looked at 11,500 hate incidents reported during 2021 and 2022, and found that 67% of anti-AAPI hate incidents involved harassment such as verbal or written hate speech or inappropriate gestures.

“When we see these problems occurring, with all women, including AAPI, people of color and the LGBTQ communities, it is a public health issue,” said Candice Cho, managing director of policy and counsel at AAPI Equity Alliance based in Los Angeles. “Because it changes our behavior. It causes anxiety and trauma.”

Female ridership on LA Metro buses fell from 53% in early 2020 to 49% last year according to a survey taken from March to May of 2022. And female ridership on trains dropped from 46% to 44%. Also, in a Metro customer survey, safety issues listed by female rail riders made up 55% of responses about what needs improvement.

Public transit agencies including LA Metro are struggling to return ridership to pre-pandemic levels. Min says anecdotal evidence indicates many people are not riding because they are scared or have had a bad customer experience that keeps them away.

He and his family were riding a train toward Inglewood and SoFi Stadium recently when a man who appeared to have a shotgun and a knife inside his jacket glared at them menacingly and briefly followed them as they exited the train, Min said.

“It was unnerving,” Min said. “That is the kind of experience a lot of people report. Public spaces should be spaces that feel safe. That is an important principle.”

While safety on public transit is the No. 1 issue his twin bills are trying to tackle, increasing transit ridership is an overall goal. In his district in Orange County there is no inter-city rail service but some people take buses, he said. As Orange County gets more crowded, he said, he wants more people to feel safe on public transit.

“As Orange County becomes more congested, we are looking at more public transit. More people will take it in the future,” Min said.

Also, his constituents in Costa Mesa and Irvine may want to use LA Metro trains and buses to get to concerts and sporting events in L.A. County, or use BART and SF Muni when traveling in the Bay Area.

Min said LA Metro supported his previous bill and he hopes the major transportation agencies will support SB 434. But one issue is its cost. He hopes to find funding for transit agencies in the state budget, to help pay to  distribute the surveys and move resources into place to address safety.

“The cost is the biggest barrier (to the bill),” he said.

Vittorio Rienzo

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