Another Nail in Transit’s Coffin

A light-rail train in Minneapolis derailed last week, forcing Metro Transit to bus riders around the train for several hours. The Phoenix light rail is suffering from major problems due to homeless people, leading the agency to try to force people off the trains.

But the biggest hit against transit is the me-too movement that encourages women to speak out against sexual harassment and other sex crimes. “The me-too movement is a public transportation issue,” says Washington Post writer Martine Powers. “If you’re a woman who rides public transportation, you’re almost guaranteed to experience the kinds of demeaning or threatening encounters that fit squarely within the bounds of the #MeToo conversation.”

The good news is that women are more likely to report such assaults than they were a few years ago. Powers notes that reports of sexual harassment on the Washington Metro system are up 65 percent in 2017 over 2016. Similarly, reports of sex crimes on the New York City subway have gone up 50 percent in the last three years. We can hope that these increases are because women are more willing to speak out and not because harassment is actually increasing.

The bad news is that there’s not a lot that transit agencies can do about it. Last September, Powers revealed that a man had been arrests more than twenty times for exposing himself to women on Metro trains and in Metro stations, yet he isn’t in jail and Metro doesn’t have the authority to ban him from the trains.

Increasing reports of sexual harassment on transit may not reflect increasing numbers of actual such harassments, but they will make more women have second thoughts about taking transit and more of them may desert publicly owned transit in favor of alternatives such as Uber, Lyft, and Chariot. Of course, there have been incidents with Uber, but potential patrons know that ride-sharing drivers, unlike other transit passengers, know they are closely tracked and that their livelihoods depend on providing good service. All in all, this is likely to be just one more nail on transit’s coffin.

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6 thoughts on “Another Nail in Transit’s Coffin

  1. paul

    Another advantage to ride share providers like Lyft and Uber is that users can choose their driver. This means women can choose a female driver by looking at the drivers picture. I know several women who don’t like to take cabs with male drivers but would prefer a woman driver.

    I had a good looking office mate in late 20’s who had a long commute on the San Francisco BART rail system. She hated the commute as she said “smelly people, mostly men” would sit next to her. She gradually adopted a technique of sitting in the middle of the carriage next to other women when possible.

    Use of “women and Children only” carriages might also work. Google “women only passenger cars” for details. Interestingly in Britain women only compartments were common until 1977. There was also a time when there were women’s waiting rooms that had a rest room in the back. In 1977 I know a women student traveling in Germany who was harassed by a man at a station and could have benefited by such a room. As it was she had to sit on a bench with an elderly couple and the man stopped harassing her.

  2. AlekseyInfraP3

    Articulated trains (like Paris metro, on some lines) might offer some marginal improvement in safety, since passengers can freely move throughout the train to a more desirable spot. It is really puzzling why this model has not been adopted widely by the public transportation systems. (Note: I am not advocating light rail solutions, but, to the extent rail (esp. heavy rail like NYC subway) is unavoidable, the articulated trainsets seem to offer clear advantages.)
    Check this article: https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2009/04/13/why-dont-we-get-articulated-trainsets/

  3. prk166

    Any idea of how the train in Minneapolis derailed? They said it was because of a manhole cover but there aren’t any on that block or two that in the tracks. Was that the problem?

    Did anyone notice that the train was shut down for the day and buses handled the traffic just fine? A long made argument is that trains have more capacity. That is wrong. Worse, none of these lines turn out to need to the capacity. They’re all served by buses just fine.

  4. CapitalistRoader

    In a move that dials back generations of war, legislation, court cases, and public policy, the University of Colorado in Boulder has re-created its own shameful version of “separate but equal.”
    This year the school re-flagged Hallett Hall a “Social Justice Living Environment.” This entails separate living quarters for students who identify as black, as well as an area for the ever-growing alphabet soup of sexual preferences.

    WHAT? University of Colorado Creates Black-Only Dorm, ColoradoPeakPolitics, 6 Dec 2017

    What’s old is new again:
    …and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!
    George Wallace’s 1963 Inaugural Address

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