A couple shootings, one ending in murder and a death of a drunken aggressive passenger in the last couple months on Metro Transit buses, Minneapolis Mayor Rybak calling to move transit stops downtown because of "crime" and we have a case for reading an article by the local security authority, no, not the torturer and war criminal of St. Thomas University, Robert Delahunty, but Bruce Schneier and his article: The Psychology of Security.
It is time to study what makes a secure transit system, what are the problems and what usability testing can do to improve this Metro Transit system. Is usability testing is some sort of silver bullet that will solve crime and bring back the dead? Certainly not. But I would test the transit stop configurations that Minneapolis is targeting to move and the traffic patterns of transit in downtown Minneapolis. I would also test the procedures and response times of Metro Transit police to remove passengers that are unsafe and unruly from the transit system, like drunks and armed kids.
What can we say about the risks and perception of safety on the Metro Transit system? First, the victims of the 2 well publicized shootings were young males shot by other young males after some sort of argument. A gun toting young male thing.
The drunken passenger was an older boozer that died of a head injury after being tossed out of the bus by another extremely annoyed passenger who was later charged with the crime of killing the drunken lout.
My impression is that the safety of the not-drunk and the not-aggressive-not-young-male population is not impaired. My impression may be wrong. I know I have been annoyed and worried when a drunken lout hassles the bus driver, more for the safety of the driver and the quality of the driving. I do not think that a driver being hassled by a drunk helps safe driving practices. I also have seen aggressive jerk kids make the ride unpleasant, but I have not felt unsafe, but as a male, not young, not old and not female I do not feel the same sense of security or lack of it as many others.
Transit gets safer, or feels safer, when there are more people using it. Usability testing and design can make transit easier to use and increase ridership. Certainly many transit stops have usability and safety problems, certainly the bus system is uncomfortable, slow, expensive and annoying making it the method of travel of last resort.
The fact is that the people that run Metro Transit do not use transit and do not care about usability or security, they are more involved in transit advertising contracts than transit, more involved in "intelligent transit" RFID chip fare cards that do not work instead of improving the current system to make it bearable enough for people to use.