Understanding the Prevalence of Mental Health and Behavioral Distress in Transit Assaults and Presenting Targeted Response and Mitigation Methods to Reduce Victimization Trends

Understanding the causal or contributing factors that have led to the victimization of transit workers and riders is seminal to effectively addressing and mitigating this ever-increasing trend. The purpose of this research is to educate the public transit industry about the contributors to transit assaults and the strategies that may be deployed to address those factors. Through this research, the project team will examine transit agency-reported assaults and the source of these behaviors – targeting those assault events that can be attributed to mental health/behavioral issues, drug abuse, and homelessness; will document successful practices; and present other actionable insight for the industry that can lead to “new approaches, greater collaboration, and increased vigilance" to mitigate this risk.

Principal Investigator: 
Lisa Staes
PI Contact Information: 


University of South Florida, Center for Urban Transportation Research

Total Project Cost: 
$150,000 ($100,000 Federal and $50,000 Non-Federal)
Agency ID or Contract Number: 
June 2023 to May 2024
Implementation of Research Outcomes: 

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has established strategic goals and objectives, which include safety, economic strength and global competitiveness, equity, climate and sustainability, transformation, and organizational excellence, that drive its “transformational investments,”  USDOT’s safety goal: “Make our transportation system safer for all people. Advance a future without transportation-related serious injuries and fatalities.” Three of the five strategic objectives established to achieve this goal – safe public, safe workers, and safe system, are the focus of this research proposal.

This research will also further the body of knowledge and address USDOT’s research priority areas by promoting the safety of transportation workers and vulnerable system users. In addition, a projected outcome of this research is the acceptance of public transportation as a viable and safe mobility option for individuals of all socio-economic backgrounds, race, gender, age, and other characteristics. This will in turn will lead to improved and expanded mobility for those living in our communities and potentially reduced dependency on privately owned vehicles, in accordance with U.S. and MCEEST’s climate and sustainability goals.

Research outputs include a synthesis of best practice reports, technology transfer offerings in the form of the aforementioned report, presentations, social media/web postings, and other industry engagement.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 
  • Increased industry awareness of successful practices.
  • Increased industry awareness of mental health presentations and how to effectively respond to those presentations.
  • Reduced assault-related events and corresponding injuries and fatalities.
  • Improved, safe, and equitable public transit services for everyone.
  • Improved community perceptions of transit as a safe mobility alternative.
  • Increased utilization of public transit due to the reduction of negative safety/personal security perspectives.
Project Number: 



Contact Us

SJSU Research Foundation   210 N. 4th Street, 4th Floor, San Jose, CA 95112    Phone: 408-924-7560   Email: mineta-institute@sjsu.edu