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RTA gathers riders and regional officials to discuss ways to improve safety and security on public transit

February 28, 2024

Public Transit Safety and Security Summit provided a forum for holistic solutions including new Transit Station Activation grants available for applications now.

CHICAGO, FEB 28, 2024 – The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) joined with CTA, Metra, Pace, the City of Chicago and other municipal and social service partners to host a cross-sector Public Transit Safety and Security Summit on Tuesday, a major implementation step of the regional transit strategic plan Transit is the Answer, and a collaborative effort toward ensuring all riders and operators feel safe on transit.

The Safety and Security Summit gathered leaders along with transit riders to explore holistic solutions. Areas of focus included:

  • Enhancing personal security and addressing perception of crime on transit
  • Incorporating transit-specific strategies into social services initiatives
  • Creating safer, more welcoming environments in transit stations and stops

Crime on the CTA has been decreasing. From January through November 2023, there were about 4.7 violent crimes on the “L” for every million rides, down from 6.2 crimes per million rides during a similar period the year before, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This summit was a recommendation outlined in Mayor Brandon Johnson’s transition report, “A Blueprint for Creating a More Just and Vibrant City for All,” which sets a goal to “implement a holistic approach to improving safety on transit. Everyone should feel safe riding public transit in Chicago, particularly the city’s most vulnerable riders.”

Deputy Mayor Garian Gatewood, the city of Chicago’s first deputy mayor for community safety, and Illinois Sen. Ram Villivalam, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, spoke at the event and emphasized their commitment holistic solutions to safety and security issues.

Enhancing personal security and addressing perception of crime on transit

RTA Deputy Executive Director of Planning Maulik Vaishnav presented results of a recent panel survey that asked riders how they perceive crime on transit. The study found that riders are most concerned about dangerous behavior, substance use, damaged and dirty facilities.

Ways the transit agencies can have the greatest impact on perceptions of safety are by providing frequent and reliable service, cleanliness, and lighting, according to the panel survey results.

“Chicago and our transit agencies clearly have a strong role to play in making sure every rider and operator feels and is safe riding,” said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden. “But we cannot do it alone. Operators and riders who are most dependent on the system are most impacted by not just crime – but the feeling of being unsafe or by news coverage of a station or route in their community as being unsafe. And we must center their voices and experiences in this work. Our summit brought leaders from police, social services, and advocacy to chart a collective path together and I look forward to seeing more collaboration with transit moving forward.”

Incorporating transit-specific strategies into social service initiatives

The half day workshop included a panel discussion with representatives from peer agencies including Stephen Tu, Deputy Executive Officer of Station Experience at LA Metro, and Lesley Kandaras, General Manager of Metro Transit in Minneapolis. Tu and Kandaras shared a national perspective on safety and specific interventions they have implemented in their regions from increased policing to forming multidisciplinary teams including social workers and healthcare workers to support homeless people on transit to utilizing public art or classical music along with better lighting and infrastructure investments to make stations more inviting and safer for riders.

Creating safer, more welcoming environments in transit stations and stops

Each year the RTA hosts a Call for Projects for its Community Planning program, which provides funding and technical assistance to local governments to help foster the growth of sustainable, equitable, walkable, and transit-friendly communities.

This year, the RTA is piloting a new category focused on safety and security – Transit Station Activation. Under this category, funding will be made available to cover the costs related to rail station and bus stop activation projects and activities aimed at bringing a temporary, increased presence of people to transit stations and stops as a solution to real or perceived public safety concerns.

It is envisioned these projects and activities will be simple, short-term actions or events occurring for a few hours over the course of several days that will bring residents, transit riders and visitors to the area to experience the activation project. Projects could include things like musical performers, pop up vendors, local artist showcases, beautification, community outreach, or safe walk programs. Station activation projects are expected to cost between $5,000 and $20,000 and the RTA in coordination with the service boards will select a few pilot projects in this category in 2024.

The RTA Community Planning Call for Projects, hosted jointly with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s Technical Assistance program, will be open for applications through March 22. Read more about the types of projects that are eligible and how to apply at

“We believe that every rider and every operator deserves to feel safe on transit. And you can expect to continue to hear from the RTA and see initiatives that work toward that end,” said RTA Board Chairman Kirk Dillard. “I am a true believer that transit is our great equalizer, our greatest engine of economic growth, and the best investment we can make as a region. I believe the greatest days for our transit system and our region are in front of us and you all have only reinforced that belief with the great ideas you have shared today.”

Press Information

Melissa Meyer

Communications Manager
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