The video is as sensational as it is indelible.
Seen on a shaky amateur recording, one passenger winds up and punches another several times as he was pressed up against the window while riding a Metro bus.
Now, tune that image out. While those kinds of incidents headline the evening news or go viral on the Internet, they hardly represent a daily bus trip.
The reality is there’s a greater chance of being killed or injured in a car wreck than falling victim to a crime on a Metro bus, a 2014 study suggests.
Physical attacks on passengers – 15 last year – don’t amount to even 1 percent of the 15.9 million bus boardings in Kansas City last year.
Nevertheless, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority takes passenger safety very seriously.
The agency works hard to protect its passengers. The number of physical incidents involving our passengers dropped in the last couple years and is on pace to decline again this year.
We successfully pushed for a new state law that toughened penalties for assaulting a bus driver. And we’re spending about $240,000 this year on off-duty police officers to keep your bus ride safe.
We are also stepping up our safety efforts with training.
The KCATA has sent about 460 of its drivers through assault prevention training offered by the Rutgers University’s National Transit Institute. The KCATA was the first transit agency nationally to take part in the training offered by the organization.
The training helps drivers identify when they might be most vulnerable and how they might defuse an explosive situation. The coursework helps drivers develop skills to keep their emotions under control, and how they can deftly deal with angry passengers.
Watch what Metro operators had to say about the conflict resolution training:
The agency also is working to ensure driver safety. It will spend about $50,000 to add Plexiglas partitions for drivers on 25 of its buses, bringing to 31 the number of buses with this safety feature. It’s hoped that the new partitions will be installed by the end of the year.
While passenger safety is a serious, it’s easy to get overblown because it is so rare.
“Many people have exaggerated transit fears,” transportation researcher Todd Litman wrote in a 2014 report for the Victoria Transport Policy Institute[PDF] . “This results, in part, from excessive news coverage of transit crashes and crimes.”
The report for the institute found that public transportation overall is relatively safe and secure. Transit has about one-tenth of the traffic death and injury rate as driving your car, the study said.
Nationally, there was one transit-related assault for every 260 committed in the United States during 2010, according to the institute’s report.
The results are similar for other types of crime. There were about 369,000 robberies nationwide in 2010. Just 2,077 were transit related. Same thing for rape. There were about 85,000 nationwide in 2010. Just six involved public transportation.
So the next time you consider using public transportation, shut out the terrifying images you see on the evening news. And just remember, you may be just as much at risk – if not more – when you get behind the wheel of your car.