RT32 – Graham Currie and Carlyn Muir – Personal Safety – Research Frontiers & New Tools

RT32 – Graham Currie and Carlyn Muir – Personal Safety – Research Frontiers & New Tools

Researching Transit – Episode 32

Published: September 2021

Keywords: Public transport, personal safety, crime prevention, environmental design, surveillance, enforcement, anti-social behaviour

This is the tenth episode in Researching Transit’s Handbook of Public Transport Research Series. Links to the book can be found at the end of the notes.

In this episode, Dr Laura Aston talks to Professor Graham Currie and Dr Carlyn Muir. Dr Muir is a Senior Research Fellow at the Monash University Accident Research Centre, and has a background in policy and research in public health and safety. Together with Dr Mustafizur Rahaman and Dr Alexa Delbosc, Professor Currie and Dr Muir have co-authored Chapter 5 in the Handbook of Public Transport: Personal safety on public transport: research frontiers and new tools for an old problem.

Dr Muir and Professor Currie discuss the complicated relationships and feedback loops between passengers’ perceptions of safety, ridership and safety through numbers effects, and the actual incidence of crime. Previous research on 10 transit systems around the world found that personal safety was the top passenger concern in every system, while a UK study indicates that 10% of people would consider using transit if measures were taken to address their fears about a lack of personal safety.

The Chapter is based on PhD research by Dr Rahaman, which developed a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) audit tool for railway stations. CPTED is a multi-disciplinary approach that is about reducing crime and providing deterrence through the use of:

  • Surveillance (formal and natural),
  • Access control (e.g., fencing),
  • Motivation reinforcement (e.g., alarms, gates),
  • Maintenance/image control (e.g., cleanliness), and
  • Territoriality and Activity support.

This research is the first time that the CPTED approach has been applied to transit. It developed a framework and scoring approach that allows a railway station to be audited in around half a day.  The framework components and the scoring approach are shown in Figure 1.

Framework for CPTED station design audit and indicators: (top) components, and (bottom) component scoring approach

Figure 1: Framework for CPTED station design audit and indicators: (top) components, and (bottom) component scoring approach

Figure 2 shows the results of structural equation modelling undertaken as part of the PhD project, which made some unexpected and nuanced findings. The study found that the Perception Of Safety (POS) at railway stations is most directly influenced by feelings of safety within the neighbourhood surrounding the railway station (0.49). This has important policy implications, as transit operators typically do not have any role or responsibilities beyond the railway property boundary.

Structural Equation Modelling results - factors affecting stations' perceptions of safety

Figure 2: Structural Equation Modelling results – factors affecting stations’ perceptions of safety

The next most important factors were satisfaction with CPTED (0.43) and concern about Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) (-0.18). However, there was not a direct link between experiencing ASB and POS. Rather, the results found a link between experiencing ASB and experiencing threats on public transport, which linked to POS (-0.13).

Find out more about this research in Chapter 5 of the Handbook of Public Transport Research, available for purchase from the publisher’s website: https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/gbp/handbook-of-public-transport-research-9781788978651.html.

A paper has also been pushed in Transportation Research Record about this research, and is available at https://doi.org/10.3141/2540-01. This paper won the 2016 William W. Millar Award for the best paper in public transport at the Transportation Research Board’s Annual General Meeting.


Find out more about Professor Graham Currie and his work:

Find out more about Dr Carlyn Muir and her work:


Have feedback? Find us on twitter and Instagram @transitpodcast or using #researchingtransit

Music from this episode is from https://www.purple-planet.com

  • Date September 5, 2021
  • Tags Podcast