Frequency and Lethality of Attacks on Surface Transportation Systems of Developed Countries, by Time of Day

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Frequency and Lethality of Attacks on Surface Transportation Systems of Developed Countries, by Time of Day


Transit operators and security officials often ask what time of day most attacks on passenger train and bus systems in modern developed countries occur and when they kill the most people. Using the MTI database of Terrorist and Serious Criminal Attacks Against Public Surface Transportation, the report authors analyzed 504 attacks in more-developed countries such as the United States, Australia, Japan, and EU members states against passenger trains, train stations, buses, and bus stations or stops from 1970 through 2020. Attacks by different types of attackers are actually not concentrated at peak hours. And, averaged over 51 years, the lethality of such attacks in developed countries is not that great – the average is 0.4 deaths per attack. But deaths and deaths per attack (lethality) are the greatest during holiday peaks and also during weekday peak hours – particularly during the peak morning hours. This is particularly true if we include the four weekday attacks that killed the most people:  the 1995 Tokyo Sarin attack; the 2003 Daegu, South Korea, suicide arson attack; and the 2004 and 2005 jihadist attacks in Madrid and London. The findings from this research should be useful to those responsible for running and overseeing transit operations, visible and remote security presence, and quick response to attacks on transit systems.


Brian Michael Jenkins is the director of the Mineta Transportation Institute’s Allied Telesis National Transportation Security Center and, since 1997, has directed the Institute’s continuing research on protecting surface transportation against terrorism and other serious forms of crime.

Bruce R. Butterworth is a Senior Transportation Security Researcher at MTI and former Director of Aviation Security Operations at the Federal Aviation Administration. Bruce has taken a leading role in creating MTI’s unique database of attacks on public surface transportation.

June 2021
Safety and security



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