Today, Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine), along with bill sponsor Stop AAPI Hate, announced the introduction of legislation to require California’s 10 largest transit districts to recognize street harassment as a rider safety concern and create data-driven solutions based on the ridership experiences of women and other vulnerable communities on public transit systems.
“Street harassment, including harassment based on sex or race, has unfortunately become far too prevalent,” said Senator Dave Min. “Our public transit systems must be safe and accessible for everyone. From the first mile to the last, no Californian should feel unsafe traveling to work, to school, or anywhere.” Min continued, “This bill will help restore confidence in the safety of public transportation so that everyone—especially women and minorities—can ride from one place to the next without fear. By gathering and aggregating information about harassment, our transit districts can take the first steps towards stopping the unwanted behavior, sexual assaults, and intimidation that afflict too many of our public transit riders.”
Transit agencies such as Los Angeles Metro, BART, Orange County Transportation Authority, and San Francisco MUNI will be required to develop initiatives based on ridership data to address street harassment and to engage with communities who are most often the targets of street harassment, including women, non-English speaking riders, and LGBTQ riders.
“There is no place for hate in California. In the same way that racialized and sexualized harassment on our streets and sidewalks has been normalized, so has the harassment of public transit riders,” said Cynthia Choi, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate. “For women and other vulnerable populations, this limits when, where, how, and whether we use a bus or train in the course of our everyday lives.”
Women, especially women of color, are common targets of street harassment while walking to and from transit stops, waiting at a transit stop, and riding buses, trains, and other forms of public transit. Subjected to unwanted sexual and racialized comments and slurs, whistling, leering, and other intimidating actions, women often bear the responsibility and the burden of keeping themselves safe.
According to a 2019 national study by the University of California San Diego Center on Gender Equity and Health, the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment, and others, 68 percent of women experience sexual harassment in a public space, including 25 percent on mass transit. Additionally, Stop AAPI Hate found that, of the more than 9,000 reports of hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout the country, almost 50 percent of incidents took place at public venues, including streets, parks, and on transit.
“Rider safety is not just freedom from physical harm, but also the ability to fully access public transit without street harassment,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, Executive Director of AAPI Equity Alliance and Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate. “By recognizing street harassment as a safety concern in our public transit systems, we are creating a critical tool to rebuild rider trust and patronage.”