Friday, October 9, 2015

How #publictransit is falsely framed as dangerous, unpleasant

Despite its relative safety, many people consider public transit dangerous and are reluctant to use it or support its expansion in their community (Ferrell, Mathur, and Mendoza 2008; Kennedy 2008). Several factors may contribute to this exaggerated fear. Transit travel requires passengers to be confined with strangers in sometimes crowded and uncomfortable vehicles and stations. Although most passengers are responsible, considerate, and clean, a (usually small) portion is anti-social, rude, and dirty. This can cause feelings of powerlessness, discomfort, and insecurity.

Disproportionate media coverage also can stimulate transit fear. Because transit accidents and assaults are infrequent, they tend to receive significant media coverage (Martin 2011). A fatal train or bus crash, or transit terrorism attack, often produces intense national and international media coverage, whereas fatal automobile crashes are so common they are usually reported only locally.

In addition, transit organizations can unintentionally increase fear with safety and security messages that emphasize dangers, including dramatic but unlikely threats such as terrorism, without counterbalancing messages about transit’s overall safety, such as those illustrated in Figure 9.

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