Sexual Harassment on Public Transportation: The University Student Experience

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Two-thirds of SJSU students experienced some form of harassment on public transit
March 24, 2020
San José, CA

A recent survey conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) revealed just how significantly sexual harassment on transit affects San José State University (SJSU) students. Crime and Harassment on Public Transportation: A Survey of SJSU Students Set in International Context surveys 891 SJSU students about whether they had experienced sexual harassment while using public transit and how they responded to such experiences.

“Survey results reveal that sexual harassment is sadly a common—even routine—experience for SJSU student transit riders,” says report author Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal. “Almost two-thirds (63%) of student transit riders experienced some form of harassment over the last three years while using the bus or train.”

Other key findings from the student survey include:

  • Sexual harassment creates fear and reduces transit use. A quarter of riders said fear of sexual harassment prevented them from using transit more often. Many more reported taking precautions that limited their mobility, including traveling only during the day and avoiding certain bus or train stops out of fear of potential harassment.
  • Sexual harassment remains largely unreported. Fewer than one-quarter10% of victims reported their harassment experiences to anyone. Those who did report such experiences mostly did so only to friends or family rather than to officials such as police or transit operators.
  • Sexual harassment affects both genders, but far more women. Although some men reported being victims and worrying about harassment, sexual harassment impacted far more female survey respondents. For example, roughly twice as many women as men had experienced sexual harassment on bus transit.

 Types of harassment experienced by female vs. male bus riders

The problem of sexual harassment for transit riders is not specific to SJSU. Setting the report findings in a broader international context, report co-author Dr. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris explains that, “findings from SJSU are comparable to those found when the same survey was administered at 18 other universities located across six continents.”

The report concludes with recommended actions that transit operators, community planners, and other policymakers can take to reduce the severity of the problem of sexual harassment and assault on transit. Suggested actions include educating the public about sexual harassment, making it easier for riders and bystanders to report incidents of harassment, and keeping transit environments well lit and well maintained.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation's transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.


Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal is MTI Education Director and Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at SJSU. Dr. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris is Associate Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and Professor of Urban Planning. Dr. Cristina Tortora is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at SJSU. Yajing Hu is Senior Scientist at Abbot.



Irma Garcia, MTI Communications & Workforce Development Coordinator



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