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Bill would ask large California transit agencies to collect data on rider harassment

Consumnes River College light rail station.
Andrew Nixon
Consumnes River College light rail station.

A bill introduced in the California Senate would require the state’s top 10 largest transit agencies, including in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Sacramento, to start keeping data on rider safety and street harassment.

The bill was introduced on Monday by Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine), and is part of a larger state-wide campaign to address the rise in hate crimes, particularly against Asian Americans.

Min said the bill is intended as a first step in gathering data that could help protect all riders, not just Asian Americans. Research has found that many vulnerable groups and people of color tend to experience harassment at higher rates on public transit.

“A lot of folks feel unsafe in public spaces generally, but on public transit particularly,” Min said. “We’ve heard so many reports of people being attacked, berated and it obviously hits vulnerable communities the most. Asian Americans get hit, seniors get hit, women get hit, LGBTQ people get hit.”

This bill is a follow up to one signed into law last year which authorized the creation of a survey tool for public transit agencies. This second bill seeks to put the survey data collected through this tool into action, to bring about change and promote rider safety. Min says he hopes that the data can help reveal trends, such as who is most likely to be targeted on public transit and where attacks typically happen.

“We don’t have a sense right now, how often does this occur, what types of harassment occurs, are there types that are more frequent than others?” Min asked.

Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that has been chronicling the rise in anti-Asian hate since 2021, has recorded over 11,500 incidents. Of that number, the vast majority are incidents that involve verbal harassment and inappropriate gestures, and about 10% took place on public transit. Stop AAPI Hate co-founder Cynthia Choi said that many elderly Asian Americans, in particular, now feel unsafe riding public transportation.

“There are parts of our community that can’t afford to have a private car, they are reliant on public transit to run their daily errands, to go to doctors appointments, so it’s critical, especially for the top 10 transit agencies, that they really understand the experiences of their riders,” Choi said.

If signed into law, the bill could go into effect as early as next year.

“In order to create effective solutions, we really need to understand the experiences of people who are impacted from street harassment, and essentially that’s what this bill does, it gives transit riders a voice,” Choi said.

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