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

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


Communities around the world are gradually becoming aware that transit riders, and especially women, are often victims of a wide range of offenses of a sexual nature that happen on buses and trains, and at bus stops and train stations. Better understanding the extent and nature of sexual harassment on transit is a critical issue for transit operators and society at large. If fear of sexual crime limits if and how people ride transit, the result is reduced mobility for certain segments of the population, as well as lost ridership for transit agencies.

For this study, we surveyed 891 students at San José State University (SJSU), a large public university in the San Francisco Bay Area. The survey explored in detail whether and how student riders experience sexual harassment, as well as how fear of such harassment influences their transit use. Recognizing that transit trips are complex, multi-phased activities, the survey asked separately about harassment experiences waiting for the bus or train, on the transit vehicle, and walking to/from the transit stop.

Key findings include that sexual harassment during transit trips is a common experience (63% of respondents reported having been harassed), the experience of sexual harassment leads students to limit their use of transit, many take safety precautions when using transit, and very few report experiences of harassment to anyone at all, much less to authorities.

Although the SJSU survey was designed as a stand-alone research project, we are able to situate the results in a global context because the study was embedded in an international effort, with a near-identical survey administered to students at universities in 18 cities across six continents. The SJSU experience is typical of students around the world, though SJSU’s students were particularly likely to report feeling unsafe after dark.

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Dr. Agrawal is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Her research and teaching interests in transportation policy and planning include bicycle and pedestrian planning, travel survey methods, and transportation finance policy. She also works in the area of transportation history. She has a BA from Harvard University in Folklore and Mythology; an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Urban and Regional Planning; and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in City and Regional Planning.


Dr. Loukaitou-Sideris is Associate Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Professor of Urban Planning. Her area of specialization is urban design, physical and land use planning. She has served as a consultant to the Transportation Research Board, Federal Highway Administration, Southern California Association of Governments, South Bay Cities Council of Government, Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, Mineta Transportation Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Greek government, and many municipal governments on issues of urban design, land use and transportation. She has published more than 100 articles and chapters and has co-authored or co-edited eight books: Urban Design Downtown: Poetics and Politics of Form (UC Press 1998); Jobs and Economic Development in Minority Communities (Temple University Press 2006); Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation over Public Space; Companion to Urban Design (MIT Press 2009); and The Informal American City: Beyond Taco Trucks and Day Labor (MIT Press 2014). Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? (MIT Press 2019), and The New Companion to Urban Design (Routledge 2019).


Dr. Tortora is Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at San José State University. She completed her PhD in Statistics at the University of Naples Federico II in 2012. She has previously held postdoctoral positions at McMaster University, the University of Guelph, and Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples. Her research focuses on data analysis methods that use advanced clustering techniques, such as to find homogeneous groups of units within the data. Recent work focuses on methods that can detect clusters of different shapes, are robust in presence of outliers, and can cluster big data sets. She also collaborates with experts in different applied fields, including environmental science, transportation, and industrial engineering.


Dr. Hu received her PhD in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2008. Since then, she has worked at Stanford University and a private biotech company focusing on translational biomedical research and developing molecular diagnostic assays. She recently received an M.S. in Statistics from San José State University and joined Abbott as a Senior Scientist in global data science and analytics.

March 2020
Sexual harassment



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