Crime and Harassment on Public Transportation: A Survey of SJSU Students Set in International Context

Despite significant investment in transit infrastructure in California over the last 15 years, transit ridership has been mostly declining since 2007 (Manville et al. 2018). This contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions and increased traffic congestion during a time that many California streets and highways are among the most congested in the nation. 

Studies show that a variety of factors influence transit use, such as service quality (frequency, punctuality, and connectivity of the transit service, total duration of the transit ride), fare costs, and perceived transit safety. Scholars have argued that the perception of personal safety can have a significant influence on travel patterns (Lynch and Atkins, 1988; Loukaitou-Sideris, 2009), and concern over safety is a common reason why many choose not to use transit (Hartgen et al. 1993; DfT 2004). For captive transit riders, fear for their safety may affect travel behavior, leading to precautionary measures that range from the adoption of certain behavioral mechanisms when in public, to choosing specific routes, travel modes and transit environments over others, or completely avoiding particular settings and activities (walking, bicycling, etc.) deemed as unsafe (Loukaitou-Sideris 2014). 

This study will examine the transit safety concerns of college students and how these may affect their choices about using transit. While we can assume that some factors influencing transit ridership among college students are the same as for transit riders at large, we do not know this for certain. We do not know which factors encourage college students to use or not use transit; what challenges they face walking to the stop, waiting at the bus stop, or riding the transit vehicle; and what types of behavioral and travel adaptations they have to make to respond to these challenges. We also do not know if certain characteristics (gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) have an impact on student travel choices, and if particular groups of students are more vulnerable to challenges than others. Thus, the study’s motivation is to identify the challenges that may affect transit use by college students, and propose policy responses to overcome them. While the study will examine a variety of safety concerns affecting both male and female students, it is particularly interested in identifying issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment in transit environments that are besetting female transit riders. 


Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University

Principal Investigator: 

Asha W. Agrawal, Ph.D. & Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Ph.D.

PI Contact Information: 

Mineta Transportation Institute
San José State University
210 N. 4th St., 4th Floor
San José, CA 95112 


Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology – $55,241

Total Project Cost: 


Agency ID or Contract Number: 



August 2018 to March 2020

Project Number: