A lot of the harassment submissions we receive are incidents that took place on or around public transit and in taxis. For many of us, it can feel like a gauntlet trying to get from point A to point B. Your stories are our daily fuel to keep working to find new and creative solutions to make transportation safe and accessible for everyone, no matter what gender identity you put out to the world or no matter who you love. We take many different approaches to do so, including fostering a supportive online forum for sharing our experiences, collaborating with WMATA on its anti-sexual harassment campaign, educating policymakers, providing anti-harassment trainings and resources, and spreading our message through street art.
Last week, CASS Board Member and all-around anti-street harassment bad a$$ Jen Corey testified at the DC Council Public Oversight Roundtable on safety in taxicabs. The hearing was prompted by findings that the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission (DCTC) receives approximately 150 complaints per month, 80 percent of which are from women who feel threatened, harassed, or unsafe in taxicabs. The purpose of the hearing was to understand the processes by which the Commission evaluates, investigates, and resolves these complaints. Following opening testimony by the DC Taxicab Commissioner, Jen — who also boasts the title of Miss District of Columbia 2009 — shared several serious harassment experiences she’s had in or around cabs in DC, all of which has ultimately led her to no longer use DC taxicabs. Jen also discussed CASS’s work to bring the innovative RightRides program to DC to address the immediate need for safe and affordable late-night transportation while we continue to work towards the culture change needed to eradicate public sexual harassment and assault.
CASS Recommendations for Improving Taxi Safety in DC
Jen also shared some of CASS’s initial recommendations for improving taxi safety in the District, including:
- More thorough background checks and driver screening processes;
- Sexual harassment and assault prevention training for employees; and
- Easier mechanisms for reporting issues and incidents.
CASS 2013 Survey Findings on Safety and Sexual Harassment in DC Taxis
As part of our efforts to bring the NYC-based free, late-night rides program RightRides to DC, we put out a 23-question transit safety survey and you and you responded in droves! Here’s what we learned from the 276 survey responses:
- 72 percent of respondents use public transit late at night (12am or later) at least once a month, with nearly half (47 percent) using public transit late at night at least once a week.
- The majority of respondents indicated that they feel safe only “some of the time” (43 percent), “hardly ever” (17 percent), or “never” (7 percent) while taking public transit alone, while with less than one-third indicating that they felt safe either “always” or “most of the time.”
- Nearly 30 percent indicated they use taxis late at night at least once a week, and 50 percent indicate that they feel safe taking taxis late at night by themselves.
- However, cost is often a barrier and over 40 percent responded that they “sometimes” or “often” walk or bike late at night because they cannot afford to take a taxi.
And, though sadly this may not come as a surprise to the many of us who frequently experience street harassment, survey respondents shared that they had experienced the following forms of sexual harassment and assault while walking, biking, riding public transportation, or taking taxis or car services late at night:
- 90 percent experienced at least one form of harassment or assault
- 83 percent experienced verbal harassment
- 71 percent experienced leering
- 39 percent experienced following/stalking behaviors
- 20 percent were rubbed up against
- 8 percent experienced groping, public exposure/flashing and public masturbation
NOTE: Check out our PDF on our transit survey data for more information. Our survey and its findings are part of our continued effort to keep a finger on the pulse of transit safety concerns in DC and help bring safer transit options like RightRides to DC. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more updates as we continue this work. We thank you for your support and send a special thanks to all the folks who answered our survey and are helping us create a safer DC!