Assault and Abuse on Public Transit: An Analysis of Twitter Data

In the United States, public transportation is a critical component of the economy because it allows people to travel to essential destinations at a low cost and with minimal environmental impact. However, passengers’ fears for safety have been heightened in light of an uptick in reported assaults and harassment on public transportation. This project will use Twitter data to develop an analytic tool that transit professionals and researchers can use to examine the social perception of assault, harassment, bullying, and abuse in public transit systems in the United States. The tool will allow users to explore questions such as: (a) How frequent are the tweets related to assault or abuse on public transit? and (b) what concerns arise most frequently? Using a text mining approach, we will first develop a comprehensive list of public assault keywords describing harassment, assault, and safety concerns. Second, we will extract relevant tweets from 2020 to 2023 using the identified keywords. Third, we will summarize and visualize the tweets to identify the most commonly reported types of assault or harassment, frequency, and geographic distribution. The research’s conclusions will inform efforts to reduce the occurrence of assault and harassment on public transportation, making rides more comfortable and safer for everyone.

Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University
Principal Investigator: 
Egbe-Etu Etu
PI Contact Information:

San Jose State University

Total Project Cost: 
Agency ID or Contract Number: 
May 2023
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

This research project will create an online decision-support tool for analyzing public concern about transit safety through tweets, allowing transit professionals to monitor trends and identify opportunities to improve passenger safety. Advantages of using Twitter data are that it provides free real-time data on passenger/commuter experiences so that agencies can regularly assess passenger experience and monitor long-term trends.

Project Number: 



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