HomeAsian AmericansOp-Ed: Governor Newsom, Please Sign SB 434 and Make Public Transit a...

Op-Ed: Governor Newsom, Please Sign SB 434 and Make Public Transit a Truly Safe Space for Everyone

Op-Ed by Chantal Hildebrand/Alliance for Girls originally by Ethnic Media Services

It has been eight years since the global #MeToo movement started. And while many institutions have changed, public transportation, which for many girls* is how they travel to and from school and work, still remains a space where few policies have been implemented to protect them. 

Earlier this year, Senator Dave Min and the Stop AAPI Hate coalition introduced SB 434, Public Transit for All: Improving Safety & Increasing Ridership. The bill would require California’s top ten public transit systems to collect qualitative and quantitative data about rider experiences with harassment and is awaiting Governor Newsom’s signature.

This comes after the passage of SB 1161, also authored by Senator Dave Min, which was signed into law last year. It called for the Mineta Transit Institute to create a survey tool focused on rider safety on public transportation and help develop data-driven initiatives to help prevent street harassment on public transportation systems.

Physical and Verbal Harassment

Together, the bills will direct transit agencies to measure and center riders’ sense of safety, comfort, and dignity as a key priority and metric of success. These state laws will help ensure that transit throughout California, not just in the Bay Area, is safer for riders, and we urge Governor Newsom to sign SB 434 into law. 

Ensuring that girls and gender-expansive youth are protected is a key component of Alliance for Girls work and why we support SB 434. In 2020, AFG published the Together We Rise research report, a girl-led research study outlining the lived experiences and needs of girls and gender-expansive youth of color between the ages of 9-24 years old in the Bay Area. The research found that 100% of youth who participated in our focus groups highlighted that they experience some form of physical and/or verbal harassment when taking public transit every day

Not One More Girl

We knew that research alone was not enough, and needed to put these findings into action. Over the next two years, AFG and a core group of member organizations with input from over 100 hired youth, community leaders, and girl-serving organizations, collaborated with Bay Area Rapid Transit to create and launch the Not One More Girl Phase I Initiative.

The campaign aimed at building awareness and uplifting the voices of those most impacted in order to prevent sexual harassment and violence in their communities and on transit. Girls and gender-expansive youth should never be afraid to travel anywhere, and collectively systems should be protecting them. Our recent case study captures our journey, impact, and learning from this first phase.

Throughout the campaign, AFG and our collaborating members worked closely with BART’s administration, board, and the BART Police Chief to effectively implement the girl and community-created recommendations. These recommendations resulted in the addition of a new “BART Watch Reporting Category,” and increased resources and non-police options for BART staff and riders. In addition, we implemented improved training for BART staff and riders on sexual harassment, using the bystander intervention training video

Girl-Centered Public Safety Legislation

AFG is excited to see that BART and some of the collaborating organizations from NOMG Phase I have launched and are implementing Phase II. Simultaneously, AFG is working with BART to develop the first youth-informed evaluation framework. The framework will help BART to examine how it approaches addressing sexual harassment and gender-based violence on its trains and platforms, and how this data can inform future policies and programming.  

Public safety legislation like SB 434 and SB 1161 drew its inspiration, in part, from the girl-centered solutions from the NOMG Phase I campaign that were implemented by BART. It showed us what’s possible when community voices are uplifted and a public transportation agency wants to do better by its diverse riders.

Rebuilding Trust

NOMG impacted one transportation agency. However, the work is not done until every single transportation agency in California focuses on safety in meaningful and effective ways. That is why we are asking Governor Newsom to sign SB 434 and take a step toward collecting the data we need to keep our most vulnerable riders safe.

As mass transit agencies around the country struggle to recover from the loss of ridership stemming from the pandemic, passing this bill would not only ensure that rider safety is a priority, it would rebuild trust between these systems and the community. BART is the fifth largest public transit system in the country, and more cities around the globe are also starting to take action to ensure vulnerable populations are protected. Protect girls and let communities know that their safety is a priority. The world is watching. 

About the Author

Chantal Hildebrand is the Deputy Director of Alliance for Girls. AFG is a network of girl-serving organizations which has been facilitating development, coordination, and collective action for systemic change across the girl-serving sector since its inception in 2012. AFG works strategically, passionately, and collectively to dramatically shift gender norms and realities and to ensure that the next generation of girls and gender-expansive youth realize their full potential.

At Alliance for Girls, girls and gender-expansive youth refers to cis girls, trans girls, non-binary youth, gender non-conforming youth, gender queer youth, and any girl-identified youth.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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