All aboard! Staying Safe and Healthy on Mass Transit

By Krisberg, Kim | The Nation's Health, November-December 2013 | Go to article overview

All aboard! Staying Safe and Healthy on Mass Transit


Krisberg, Kim, The Nation's Health


Grabbing a good seat and getting to work on time may be top priorities when using mass transit. But whether you're traveling by train, bus, streetcar or subway, following a few easy safety and health tips can help make your daily commute a smoother ride.

In 2011, Americans used public transportation to take more than 10 billion trips. In fact, each weekday, people board some type of public transportation 35 million times. And as with any other type of transportation--a motor vehicle, a bike or your own two legs--there is a safety risk in traveling from one destination to another that can often be prevented with some common-sense precautions. But first, what exactly is mass transit?

Mass transit is made up of large-scale public transportation systems and can include a variety of modes, such as buses, trains, cable cars, light rail and ferries. According to the American Public Transportation Association, public transit is becoming so popular that between 1995 and 2011 it experienced a greater growth rate in use than the nation's highways. So if you're among the millions who've decided to leave the car in the driveway in favor of mass transit, it's still a good idea to make safety a regular traveling companion.

First, take the time to familiarize yourself with a transit system's schedules and services, says Greg Hull, assistant vice president of public safety, operations and technical services at the American Public Transportation Association. Most transit systems offer online trip planning or have phone lines staffed by customer service representatives, Hull says. Also, be aware of where you'll be waiting for mass transit to pick you up, such as an outdoor bus shelter, or where you'll be dropped off, and prepare accordingly.

"For example, you might get dropped off in an environment that's dimly lit at night," Hull says. "These types of situations aren't specific to transit, so you should take the normal personal safety precautions you'd take in any other open environment."

Stay alert of your surroundings and watch where you're going. For instance, while it's easy to let our personal electronic gadgets distract us as we're walking down the subway platform, make sure you don't walk too close to the edge, Hull says. For people who are visually impaired, most train platforms use tactile flooring--such as tiles with bumps--to provide users with a nonvisual warning that they're too close to the platform edge. …

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