Importance of Security in Mass Transportation

The security measures taken at airports are a prime example of just how important mass transportation security is. However, this increased security for commercial airliners was only introduced after 2001, and other forms of mass transportation are yet to follow a similar example.

In mass transportation, there are a number of security risks that can lead to dire circumstances; and these aren’t just limited to dangers from terrorism, but also other aspects, as we’ll discuss below. In today’s world, undermining the importance of security in mass transportation is one that leads to immense loss, along with being a source of embarrassment for governments.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the importance of security in mass transportation, along with the different aspects we need to secure to ensure public and freight security.

Importance of Security in Mass Transportation

The problem of security in mass transportation is not as dire in developed countries as it is in developing or underdeveloped countries. Experts suggest that by 2050, public transport networks will transport people across 50 trillion kilometers per year, globally. However, all that won’t be possible if there isn’t an effective security infrastructure in place.

Mass transportation is a ‘public’ form of transport, including buses, trolleys, trams, passenger trains, ferries, airlines, coaches, and more, which are open to the public, subject to ticket purchases. According to a report by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the crime rate in mass transports declined from 2000 to 2007, after which it has only seen an increase, thus giving rise to a need for security measures in mass transport.

Following is a table showing the number of reported cases that took place in a mass transport system, with respect to the type of crime.





Sex Offenses




Aggravated Assault






Drug Abuse


Disorderly Conduct


Fare Evasion


Curfew Evasion/Loitering


While these figures have come down significantly as smartphones have become more popular and 911 units more responsive, individuals are still often left to fend for themselves, thus introducing a dire security risk.

Governments (and even private companies running their own transport systems) should strive to develop a suitable infrastructure that isn’t offered by a separate entity, but is one that is integrated with the mass transportation system itself.

The security issues faced by mass transport are ever-evolving, which is why these facilities also need an infrastructure that is constantly adapting to these changes, as well as the number of passengers it carries.

Of course, better security will mean more passengers, which in turn may mean more security risks, which will lead to better measures being adopted. This is a vicious cycle that will continue until one side lags. Currently, the risks are greater than the security measures adopted.

There is just one security measure that a large number of people travelling from public transport rely on; the public aspect of mass transportation. No one will do anything if there are people watching, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t an effective security measure.

Factors to Consider for Effective Mass Transportation Security

When looking to implement a security infrastructure in mass transportation, there are two major considerations to make that will dictate what is protected and how effective the solution is:

• Security Dimensions. These are factors that consider the infrastructure as well. These include:

o Integrity of passengers

o Integrity of cargo

o Route used by the driver/operator/pilot

o IT systems implemented and their security

o Overall transport chain and its security

• Security Measures. These are procedures implemented to ensure that the security dimensions are being protected and that the integrity of these dimensions is being upheld. These include, but aren’t limited to:

o Regular inspections

o Security of the transport asset, facility, and personnel

o Data security

o Cybersecurity policies/procedures and more

Combined, these two constitute the mass transportation security infrastructure as a whole. Both of these factors are equally important as they can’t remain effective without each other. Dimensions without measures can’t be implemented, while measures without dimensions don’t have any end-goal to keep in mind; or any idea about what to protect and how.

When these measures and dimensions are integrated with each other, we get the following outcomes, which serve to boost the confidence level in mass transportation, and the government in turn.

• Increased public confidence, leading to more revenue for the governing body

• Significant reduction in travel and trade disruptions

• Reduced risk of loss by theft, robberies, hijacking, or other direct losses to passengers and cargo

• Reduced indirect costs (insurance and damage mitigation)

• Reduced risk of illegal transportation of goods, animals, drugs, weapons, and even passengers

• Increased efficiency of transport and therefore the ability of the transport infrastructure to handle more complex transactions

• Increased trading incentives; national and international

Security for Mass Transportation – Why It Is Important

Mass transportation (or public transportation) is a service that has a much deeper impact on the community (and the economy) than meets the eye. There are a lot of dominos in play here that make it a critical element in any given country.

This includes, but isn’t limited to:

• The number of individuals who own cars would increase if there is a lacking transportation system, thus introducing more traffic jams (and even inequality)

• Every dollar earned via mass transportation systems (by the government) has a multiplier effect, effectively becoming $4 in terms of its impact on the economy

• It is better for the environment because of less emissions and fuel efficiency

These are just some of the many benefits an effective mass transportation system offers governments. Of course, these benefits are multiplied when looking at them from a consumer/public point of view.

Therefore, it stands to reason that these systems must operate in the most efficient and secure manner possible. According to research, 55% of all individuals use some form of mass transport in the course of 1 year.

30% of these suggested that they use public transport because they had no option. 50% of those who have a means of transport at home prefer to use mass transport because it is more convenient and safer. However, a very large portion of female commuters reported that they are afraid of using public transport – specifically after dark. 45% of them suggested that they never feel safe on public transport, while there were just 11.3% men who shared the same sentiment.

On top of that, 3 in every 5 women suggest that they need to avoid certain lines, stops, having company at stops, or have to constantly be alert on the bus. Female students – especially native ones – often find themselves walking the distance or hitching a ride with friends instead of using mass transport because of fear of victimization.

When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, a majority of them (79.4%) also claim that they have been subjected to harassment or other unwanted sexual gestures.

The Problem That Arises

There is a dire cost associated with the safety and security concerns associated with mass transportation. Because of the lack of a robust mass transport security infrastructure, many find themselves unable to use the very service they are paying taxes for and ultimately spend their money elsewhere.

This isn’t just a problem for individuals (as they have to spend more now), it also presents an issue for governments because it results in a loss of revenue.

As the travel safety perceptions (travelers being aware of the risks involved and taking calculated risks to evaluate whether mass transport is the way to go or not) get better, people may change their travel behavior to be more in line with the economic goals of the country.

It is a well-known fact that if given the opportunity, a majorityof the population would turn toward using mass transportation systems; and there is one underlying cause for that; convenience. However, the enemy of convenience is safety, hence the importance of security in mass transportation.

What Can Be Done?

As mentioned above, in order to improve the security condition of mass transportation, it is essential that the quality of service offered is measured and performance evaluated. To measure the quality of services, the first factor to consider is whether the systems are on time and can support the demand of these systems. Immediately after that, governments should consider the security aspect.

To determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the mass transportation infrastructure, it is important to secure passengers and cargo from crime, accidents, disease, or other psychological factors. There used to be three security classes:

a. Crime security. This basically entails the presence of staff and police at platforms or inside trains, planes, trams, and more. Other crime security determinants include, but aren’t limited to:

i. Lighting

ii. Monitoring (visible)

iii. Help points

iv. Detailed layout and staffing

b. Accident security. This entails the presence and visibility of accident support at all times. Support doesn’t just mean help after an accident has happened, but actually offering security against such events; i.e., avoidance. This includes:

i. Visible support areas

ii. Visibility of hazards

iii. Active safeguarding, such as staff presence

iv. Passive safeguarding, such as runaway ramps

c. Perception security. This form of security is targeted toward offering mental peace to individuals. These include offering highly visible and evident security measures in place that act as deterrents.

It is important to note that while security in mass transportationused to cater to safety from crime, accidents, and perceptions, now there is a new enemy in the mix as well; COVID-19. In fact, the virus has managed to have a much graver impact on the infrastructure compared to the other two risks.

This is known as disease security and can be seen implemented in almost every mass transportation infrastructure. To battle COVID-19 right now, disease security involves placing hand sanitizers on every bus, ensuring social distancing is observed, and most importantly, masks are worn by all those who use the system.

Considering how fast the pandemic is spreading and the fear it has spread worldwide, it is one of the most prevalent security measures needed on public transports and can either improve or deteriorate the condition of mass transport very easily.

Here is a graph showing the response of almost 2,000 individuals when asked a simple question; “If Coronavirus were to spread to your community, would you be more or less likely to use public transport?

Source: Statista

The graph shows that 57% of individuals would stop using public transport if they had a COVID-19 case in their community. The rest rely so heavily on mass transportation that they won’t really be able to do anything about it.

One of the most adversely affected mass transportation systems during the pandemic was air transport and logistics, according to 35% of all business managers and leaders.

Who Is Responsible?

When it comes to offering security for mass transportation, the burden of responsibility lies not just on the transport bureau, but also on the government. They must properly screen security providers and select contractors not just based on the lowest price, but also the quality of security offered.

For the Department of Transportation and the security providers selected by them to solve the security issue, it is important they understand the key concerns that need to be addressed and make policies and procedures accordingly.

One of the main problems that undermine the importance of security in mass transportation is the fact that security often focuses on visible signs of criminal behavior; i.e., vandalism. Yes, it is a problem, but not the most pressing one. Transport officials must focus on the bigger picture, which includes improving security in mass transportation to ensure actual safety of passengers and cargo.

By doing so, officials will effectively be able to reap more rewards for their efforts, improving not only the transport industry, but lives of the public and the economy as well.