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  • Writer's pictureZack Deutsch-Gross

Ride Fearlessly: Advocates Share Strategies to Cultivate Safety for All

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

TransForm’s latest research, Ride Fearlessly: A Framework for Reimagining Transit Safety, centers inclusive safety programs that move beyond policing. At the end of October, we gathered a dynamic panel of advocates to discuss innovative and inclusive programs happening across the Bay Area and beyond. TransForm Transportation Policy and Programs Manager Amy Thomson moderated. The panelists were:

Attendees included transit agency professionals and advocates from around California and nationwide. Bharoocha introduced the report's themes, including non-police interventions, teaming with other service providers to add expertise in dealing with mental health crises, and listening to and learning from community voices. She explained the three-part safety framework developed in the report:

  1. Reimagine Safety Approaches: Seek out community-based approaches, leveraging innovation and imagination, intentional data analysis, and meaningful community partnerships. Use pilot programs to test new ideas and allow time to get feedback from riders and staff before making permanent changes.

  2. Redesign Systems, Culture, and Spaces: Create reliable and frequent service that meets changing rider needs. Use environmental design strategies such as bright lighting and accessible operator call boxes to mitigate everyday acts of harassment and harm. Cultivate inclusive and communal spaces and confront harmful behavior via strategies like bystander intervention training.

  3. Reduce Harm: Prevent negative interactions between riders and law enforcement by decriminalizing fare enforcement, deploying transit ambassadors, and limiting police use of force. Critically, agencies must review code of conduct enforcement policies, which can lead to harmful interactions with law enforcement that don’t enhance rider safety.

The panelists introduced their thoughts on transit safety and took questions from attendees. Saltzman​ highlighted BART’s Not One More Girl campaign, which Bharoocha was instrumental in creating, as a favorite intervention. Based on feedback from vulnerable riders, the system came up with the innovative safety approach of shortening trains from 10 cars to six or eight, which increases density and the feeling of safety while saving money.

Lee spoke about recent legislation, such as SB 434, which will lift up voices that include people who have harmful interactions with police. She noted that Stop AAPI Hate has documented many incidents of verbal harassment that don’t rise to the levels of hate crimes. She hopes transit systems will provide solutions based on those lived experiences rather than crime reports.

Van Eyken spoke about the need for transit agencies to be more transparent about safety goals and provide the community with the information it needs to help reimagine public safety. He noted that most people don’t board transit to commit crimes, so police should be limited to violent incidents or workplace safety support. Assaults on transit workers have risen, and that needs to be addressed so they can work without fear, but the response should be targeted.

Sankara recalled seeing other young Black men assaulted and humiliated by police when he was a student and asked the group to consider the social costs of policing, including depression and anxiety, not just in people involved in traumatic encounters but in their families and witnesses. He called out racism and implicit bias as measurable threats to public health that transit agencies must consider when developing safety programs.

You can make a difference by sharing the Ride Fearlessly report, asking your local transit agency to adopt the report’s recommendations, or hosting TransForm to provide a briefing for any organizations you are a part of that are interested in taking action.

Watch the webinar:


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