The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How the UK tackles Crime on Public transit

Impact of crime on public transport

When people decide whether or not to travel by public transport, they are influenced by a range of factors that they can make a choice or decision about: time, cost, access, frequency etc. But personal security is another important factor that people will consider. In fact, crime and the fear of crime can be the most dissuasive of all.

Considering the number of journeys made on public transport in the UK - some six billion journeys are made by bus, coach or rail each year - actual incidences of crime against other passengers are extremely rare. And this is borne out in a recent survey (see below) whereby two-thirds of respondents felt that the level of security on public transport was either 'good' or 'very good'.London underground

However, the same survey found that 11.5% more journeys would be made on public transport if passengers felt they were more secure.

This is because for many people, their perception of crime on public transport can have as great an impact on travel habits as any actual experience. Indeed, for more vulnerable members of society, it can dissuade them from travelling altogether.

Secure for the entire journey

Concern for personal security is not necessarily confined to the time spent on board the train or bus - people often report this is the safest part of their journey. Instead, it might be the apprehension felt whilst waiting on the platform or bus stop, the environment that surrounds a station or reservations about hiring an unlicensed taxi or minicab.

And neither is it just the fear of direct personal assault. It is also the discomfort and intimidation felt when witnessing anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and graffiti.

That is why for both the government and transport operators alike, the safety and security of passengers and staff is an important concern. As a result, the Department for Transport has taken a prominent role in encouraging investment and initiatives that improve transport facilities and their environments in order to reduce actual instances of crime and alleviate people's anxiety.

Perceptions and experiences of crime on public transport

In April 2004, the Department for Transport published the findings of a major national survey into people's perceptions of security and crime on public transport. Whilst 64% of respondents felt positive about their personal security while travelling, some people can still feel apprehensive. And these apprehensions often reflected the respondent's age, gender and ethnic background; for example:

  • Men, being more likely to be a victim of violence or robbery, felt more fearful of the presence of groups of other men
  • Women, who were more likely to experience harassment or sexual assault, are more concerned about the behaviour of lone men
  • Younger people were found to be most likely to experience being threatened or stared at in a hostile or intimidating manner.
  • Ethnic minority passengers felt further exposed to the wider experience of racial harassment and therefore likely to have concerns, but were less likely to report any incidents.
  • Disabled people felt particularly vulnerable to the threat of crime where access to transport is limited or via poorly lit, isolated routes.

Feedback on improvements

The survey also reveals the measures that help passengers feel more secure. People waiting for or travelling by bus for example, felt that locally monitored CCTV surveillance was the most reassuring form of security; while those who travelled by train felt that the presence of staff on the platform or collecting tickets on board the train made them feel more secure. In both cases, passengers said that the provision of Help Points, clear signage and improved lighting was particularly welcome.

Information about services and delays also improves people's comfort. Passengers felt that accurate, real-time information displays and public address systems help them feel more in control of their situation.

It is also worth noting that people often feel at their most vulnerable during the walk home from the bus or train - especially at night. So having local street maps, clear signage, taxi ranks or private hire operators with public premises nearby helps to reassure passengers, particularly when they are in unfamiliar locations.

Working in partnership

From such findings, it is clear that no single measure can make the difference, and no solitary body or organisation can be responsible for personal security throughout the length of an entire journey.

Creating safer travelling environments requires a commitment not just from the police and transport operators but also local authorities, town centre managers, local businesses and the public themselves. And whilst investment in services and facilities can deliver obvious improvements, it is important that they are just part of a broader strategy that also allows the sharing of information and development of community-wide schemes. Rail concourse

Emphasising the partnership approach, the Department and local transport authorities are involved in a number of initiatives and advisory panels that aim to look at the problems of crime from a broad, longer-term viewpoint:

  • Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships provide a basis for a unified approach for responsible authorities such as police, local authorities and other stakeholders, such as public transport operators, to tackle crime in their area. These partnerships undertake local audits of reported crimes to develop the appropriate strategies for dealing with issues specific to their area.
  • The Secure Stations Scheme is a national accreditation that recognises rail stations that have reached a required standard of passenger and staff security, which might involve lighting on the platforms, ticket halls and station car parks, provisions of help points and alarms, and effective staff communications. Launched in 1998, the scheme - managed jointly by the Government and British Transport Police - currently has over 300 stations accredited.
  • The development of 'secure routes' whereby improvements to the physical and social environment - transport interchanges, taxi ranks, CCTV, pedestrian and walking facilities - help people feel more in control of their journey, are only possible through committed, long-term partnerships between local authorities, police and the local community. Travelling to School: an action plan, is an example where cycle paths, flexible bus services and improved street lighting and sight lines on pedestrian paths have helped to create safer routes from schools to local bus and train stations.
  • Safer Travel on Buses and Coaches Panel (STOP) is looking at ways to combat assaults, anti-social behaviour and vandalism on vehicles and property. The Panel brings together all those involved in dealing with the issue of safety and security. Its primary responsibility is to facilitate the exchange of ideas and the spread of good practice. For example, the Panel is looking to improve crime data collection and tackle problems around the behaviour of school children.

Alongside these projects, lies the work that the relevant transport authorities undertake to ensure transport operators meet expected standards. The Department for Transport for instance issues guidance to operators on improving personal safety for both passengers and staff; as well as creating tighter licensing regulations - on minicab firms for example - to remove less than scrupulous services.

A secure environment is not necessarily an expensive one

Instances of crime on public transport are extremely rare. When they do occur, they are typically isolated, local incidents. So it is through locally developed strategies, where information, resources and investment can be shared, that the most effective responses can be implemented.

And delivering the environments that passengers say they appreciate does not necessarily come after any great expense. In many instances, the improvements identified by passengers are neither the most expensive nor technologically advanced: improved lighting, accurate information, sensible sign-posting, a well-kept environment can all make a real difference to a passenger's sense of comfort.

But there's a role for the wider community to play as well. The public can help by simply remaining vigilant and applying the same care to their safety and belongings as they would in other environments such as in a shopping centre or when travelling abroad. Following the advice issued by authorities such as the British Transport Police, local Public Carriage Offices like that of Transport for London, or crime prevention groups such as Crime Concern and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust can improve awareness of potential problems and explain where help can be found.

At the same time, the Department for Transport and its partners will continue to work on providing transport environments that are safer and more secure than ever before.

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