USF Selected for Transit Worker, Rider Safety Research Project

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Image Courtesy of FTA, via X, formerly known as Twitter)

(Image Courtesy of FTA, via X, formerly known as Twitter)

The University of South Florida (USF) will help transit agencies address transit worker and rider assaults through a $500,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The research project will identify public safety risks for transit workers and riders, determine the most effective mitigation strategies to minimize those risks, and promote the implementation of those strategies.

This initiative “will better inform FTA’s efforts in developing public transportation safety measures in the light of many reports of violence toward transit workers,” FTA said during the Aug. 9 grant award announcement.

According to the National Transit Database, there has been “a roughly five-fold increase in transit assault incidents reported from 2009 (319 reported incidents) to 2019 (1,539 reported incidents),” FTA reported in the Federal Register late last year, when it began seeking applications for research project.

Proposals were due Feb. 13, 2023, and the grant was awarded after a competitive process.

USF has decades of experience working with transit agencies, transit workers’ unions, and other industry partners around transit safety and operations, according to FTA. As grantee, it will identify underlying factors and trends in operator and rider assault incidents; document and assess strategies to address them; and develop best practices for transit agencies. The work is expected to take approximately 18 months to complete, FTA said.

According to FTA, the funding was made possible by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

This is the first phase of FTA’s Transit Worker and Rider Safety Best Practices Research Project. After identifying best practices, a second phase of research will provide technical and financial support to the transit industry and supportive organizations “to pursue innovative approaches to reduce safety hazards affecting workers, riders, and transit systems,” according to FTA, which noted that it has initiated multiple actions to identify potential transit worker safety mitigations and safety standards, and to prevent operator assault. Those efforts, it said, include:

  • Proposed rules to increase transit safety and operator safety. 
  • Soliciting public input on improving safety for transit workers. 
  • Convening stakeholders to discuss and test concepts for redesign of bus compartments for operator safety. 
  • Funding research on the impact of using bus automation to improve transit safety.
FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez 

“Through the pandemic and indeed every day, the value of American transit workers is proven over and over again,” FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said. “As a nation who depends on them, we owe it to our frontline transit workers to ensure that when they go to work, they can expect to come home safe and sound. Transit riders also deserve to know that safety is the North Star of every transit agency, and that they will continue riding the safest mode of transportation in America.”

In other news, FTA is providing approximately $13.4 million in FY 2023 grant funding through its Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 10, 2023.

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