U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has announced a series of efforts to combat human trafficking in the transportation sector.
Among the initiatives announced by Secretary Chao on January 28 is a renewed focus on the “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking” pledge to train the transportation workforce and raise public awareness on the issue of human trafficking across all modes of transportation. Secretary Chao is challenging the transportation industry to commit to “100 Pledges in 100 Days.” The Department anticipates over 1 million employees across all modes of transportation will be trained because of this initiative.
To amplify counter-trafficking efforts, Secretary Chao established an annual $50,000 award to incentivize individuals and entities, including non-governmental organizations, transportation industry associations, research institutions, and State and local government organizations, to think creatively in developing innovative solutions to combat human trafficking in the transportation industry. The Department will review applications and determine the individual or entity that will most effectively utilize these funds to combat human trafficking.
Secretary Chao also announced $5.4 million in grant selections through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative. Twenty-four organizations across the country will each receive funding for projects to help prevent human trafficking and other crimes on public transportation.
The projects are:
The Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA) will receive funding to provide human trafficking awareness training for public transportation staff in Northern Arizona, conduct a human trafficking awareness and public safety campaign, develop an app that allows bus drivers and riders to report suspicious behavior, and provide transit passes for human trafficking survivors involved in workforce training programs. NAIPTA operates the Mountain Line fixed route bus service as well as paratransit service in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The City of Tucson will receive funding for staff training and public awareness campaigns designed to prevent transit operator assaults and human trafficking on transit. The funds will also allow Sun Transit, the city’s public transit system, to develop strategies for reducing crime at transit centers.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will receive funding to conduct training and a public awareness campaign that will educate employees, passengers and the public about recognizing and reporting human trafficking activities on transit. VTA provides bus, light rail, and paratransit services in the San Jose, California, area.
Sunline Transit Agency will receive funding to develop educational training materials and conduct a public outreach campaign addressing human trafficking on public transportation. SunLine is the public transit provider for the Coachella Valley of Southern California, located 60 miles east of Riverside California, and operates fixed route, commuter and paratransit bus service.
The Community Transportation Association (CTAA) of America will receive funding to improve existing educational materials for transit agencies on human trafficking prevention, operator assault and public safety, and develop new learning tools. CTAA is a national association of public, nonprofit and private transportation and mobility management providers.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will receive funding to implement a pilot study to evaluate ways to reduce crime and improve safety in Metrorail stations. WMATA operates one of the nation’s largest rail transit systems, which consists of 118 route miles and 91 passenger stations. This effort would focus on six Metrorail stations experiencing the highest crime rates in the transit system.
Hillsborough Transit Authority (HART) will receive funding to conduct a public awareness campaign about human trafficking in the months leading up to the Super Bowl in 2021 in Tampa. The campaign will include educational materials for the public and HART employees as well as training in recognizing and reporting human trafficking.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will receive funding to develop human trafficking awareness training for employees and outreach materials for the public. PSTA provides bus, trolley and paratransit service in Pinellas County, Florida.
The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners will receive funding to install on buses communications equipment linked to dispatchers at the transit maintenance center, allowing for live monitoring of the bus driver and their surroundings. Gwinnett County Transit operates seven local bus routes and five express routes in the northeast metro Atlanta region.
The Council of State Governments will receive funding to conduct a seminar bringing together leaders from 10 states to learn about best practices and policy solutions to reduce crime and address human trafficking on public transit. The council is a national organization based in Lexington, Kentucky, whose mission is to foster the exchange of ideas to help state officials shape public policy.
The Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) in Lansing, Michigan, will receive funding to implement an app that allows users to submit public safety concerns with photos, videos and text messages to transit dispatchers. CATA also will conduct a public education campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking on transit.
The Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis, Missouri, will receive funding to enhance employee training to recognize human trafficking and address other public safety incidents on buses. The agency provides bus and light rail service in the St. Louis area.
The City of Greensboro will receive funding to implement an application that allows transit users to anonymously report safety and security issues ocurring in the transit system directly to dispatchers for instant response. In order to encourage widespread use of the application, the city also will conduct marketing and outreach activities to educate riders and the public on using the application.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation will receive funding to implement a training program for transit employees across the state on how to recognize and respond to the signs of human trafficking. The department also will develop human trafficking awareness educational materials to be posted on transit vehicles and stations.
The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada will receive funding to address public safety in transit systems, including crime prevention, human trafficking, and operator assault. The project includes training provided by local law enforcement partners for transit operators and a public safety awareness campaign that encourages active involvement by transit employees, passengers, and community members.
End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purpose‐USA (ECPAT‐USA) will receive funding to develop educational and public awareness campaign materials for transit systems to address public safety and human trafficking on transit. ECPAT-USA is an anti-trafficking policy organization that focuses on education and advocacy.
The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority will receive funding to develop and disseminate human trafficking awareness materials to passengers, update an existing phone app that provides trafficking victims with information and resources to obtain help, and work with law enforcement agencies to identify best practices for reducing crime on transit. The human trafficking awareness materials will be disseminated via video and audio messages on public address systems on buses.
Grand Gateway EDA Pelivan Transit will receive funding to provide statewide training for the public and transit employees with the goal of reducing crime, increasing human trafficking awareness and prevention, and expanding knowledge of proper safety measures to practice while using public transportation. Grand Gateway EDA Pelivan Transit, which provides transit services in northeastern Oklahoma, applied for the grant on behalf of the Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA), which represents 35 local transit agencies that provide public transit across in state.
The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Tri-Met) will receive funding to develop and disseminate educational material for riders on how to identify and report potential risks to riders and operators and install digital displays at key transit centers to share information on safety-related topics. The goal is to reduce operator assaults and increase public participation in reporting threats to the safety of operators and passengers.
The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (The Comet) will receive funding to develop pamphlets, posters and other materials about rider safety and human trafficking awareness to be displayed in the transit system and to conduct public safety awareness events to educate the community about human trafficking and crime on buses. The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority provides The Comet bus service in Richland and Lexington counties, South Carolina.
The Greenville Transit Authority (Greenlink) will receive funding to create training and educational materials for employees and riders, and conduct a public awareness campaign and exposition to increase human trafficking awareness on transit. The Greenville Transit Authority operates Greenlink fixed-route bus service in the Greenville and Mauldin/Simpsonville areas of South Carolina.
The West River Transit Authority (Prairie Hills Transit) will receive funding to conduct training for employees and the public about human trafficking awareness as well as develop public education materials and host public awareness events that will provide human trafficking survivors with opportunities to share their knowledge and experiences. The West River Transit Authority provides Praire Hills Transit bus service in a rural area of western South Dakota.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) will receive funding to conduct employee training and public education to prevent human trafficking on transit; and, host a one-day summit with local, state and federal partners to share information about human trafficking. DART provides bus, light rail and commuter rail service in the Dallas area.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, which operates bus and light rail service in the Houston area, will receive funding to install equipment on buses designed to deter assaults on bus drivers and other crimes. The equipment will record images of passengers boarding the bus, allowing them to see themselves in real time on a monitor above the operator’s seat. A second monitor will show a live video feed of the passenger area of the bus.
To support the Department’s counter-trafficking efforts, the DOT Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking completed a report in July 2019 that recommends actions the Department can take to help combat human trafficking and best practices for states and local transportation stakeholders.