Communities around the world are gradually becoming aware that transit riders, and especially women, are often victims of a wide range of offenses of a sexual nature that happen on buses and trains, and at bus stops and train stations. Better understanding the extent and nature of sexual harassment on transit is a critical issue for transit operators and society at large. If fear of sexual crime limits if and how people ride transit, the result is reduced mobility for certain segments of the population, as well as lost ridership for transit agencies.

For this study, we surveyed 891 students at San José State University (SJSU), a large public university in the San Francisco Bay Area. The survey explored in detail whether and how student riders experience sexual harassment, as well as how fear of such harassment influences their transit use. Recognizing that transit trips are complex, multi-phased activities, the survey asked separately about harassment experiences waiting for the bus or train, on the transit vehicle, and walking to/from the transit stop.

Key findings include that sexual harassment during transit trips is a common experience (63% of respondents reported having been harassed), the experience of sexual harassment leads students to limit their use of transit, many take safety precautions when using transit, and very few report experiences of harassment to anyone at all, much less to authorities.

Although the SJSU survey was designed as a stand-alone research project, we are able to situate the results in a global context because the study was embedded in an international effort, with a near-identical survey administered to students at universities in 18 cities across six continents. The SJSU experience is typical of students around the world, though SJSU’s students were particularly likely to report feeling unsafe after dark.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Transit and Passenger Rail

Digital Object Identifier


MTI Project



Transit, Sexual harassment, Safety, Security, Surveys


Community-Based Research | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Transportation Engineering