Safety Performance: Transit
Public transit in the United States has been and continues to be a highly safe mode of transportation, as evidenced by the statistics on incidents, injuries, and fatalities that have been reported by transit agencies for the vehicles they operate directly. Reportable safety incidents include collisions and any other type of occurrence that result in death, a reportable injury, or property damage in excess of a threshold. Injuries and fatalities include those suffered by riders as well as by pedestrians, bicyclists, and people in other vehicles. Reportable security incidents include a number of serious crimes (robberies, aggravated assaults, etc.), as well as arrests and citations for minor offenses (fare evasions, trepassings, other assaults, etc.) Injuries and fatalities may occur not just while traveling on a transit vehicle, but also while boarding, alighting, or waiting for a transit vehicle or as a result of a collision with a transit vehicle or on transit property.
In 2002, the definitions of an incident and an injury were revised. The threshold for a reportable safety incident was raised from $1,000 to $7,500. An injury was redefined to be an occurrence that required immediate transportation for medical care away from the scene of the incident. Before 2002, any event for which the FTA received a report was classified as an injury. These adjustments to incident and injury definitions led to a decrease in reported incidents and injuries in 2002. These adjustments preclude the direct comparison of incident and injury statistics with those for earlier years.
The definition of fatalities has remained the same. Fatalities decreased from 282 in 2002 to 248 in 2004, and fell from 0.66 per 100 million PMT in 2002 to 0.55 per 100 million PMT in 2004. Fatalities, adjusted for PMT, are lowest for motorbuses and heavy rail systems. Fatality rates for commuter and light rail have, on average, been higher than fatality rates for heavy rail. Commuter rail has frequent grade crossings with roads and shares track with freight rail vehicles; light rail is often at grade level and has minimal barriers between streets and sidewalks. There were no fatalities on demand response vehicles operated directly by public transit agencies in either 2002 or 2004.
Incidents (safety and security combined) and injuries per 100 million PMT declined for all modes combined from 2002 to 2004. Incidents and injuries, when adjusted for PMT, are consistently the lowest for commuter rail and highest for demand response systems.