The National Academies

TCRP J-05/Topic 18-02 [Active]

Codes of Conduct on Transit Vehicles and Property: Legal Issues
[ TCRP J-05 (Legal Aspects of Transit and Intermodal Transportation Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $50,000
Staff Responsibility: Gwen Chisholm-Smith
Research Agency: Countermeasures Assessment & Security Experts, LLC
Principal Investigator: Ron Frazier
Effective Date: 1/9/2019
Completion Date: 7/9/2020
Comments: Research Complete.



Public transportation agencies strive to offer safe, clean, courteous, and accessible service for the safety, convenience, and comfort of their customers. Some agencies have developed written codes of conduct for patrons that establish rules prohibiting certain conduct that may adversely affect use, operation, or occupancy of their vehicles and facilities. Other agencies apply informal rules to the same end.


Whether written or communicated informally, codes of conduct supplement general laws in defining expected behavior for transit customers. Clear, sensible, and legally sound codes, effectively publicized and applied with compassion and common sense, can promote a pleasant and positive experience for transit users, a better work environment for agency personnel, and a welcoming environment for new riders. However, enforcement can be difficult. If codes of conduct are unclear, overly restrictive, harshly and unevenly applied and enforced, or facilitate unlawful discrimination, they can lead to serious adverse legal consequences for transit agencies. 




The objective of this research is to produce a report that provides practical advice and checklists for transportation agencies and their attorneys to consult in developing, improving, applying, and enforcing their own codes of conduct. This research will include at a minimum: (1) a comprehensive review of legal standards applicable to codes of conduct; and  (2) a survey of numerous transit agencies, large and small, to determine if they have written or informal codes of conduct. Survey questions will cover what terms are contained in the respective codes, how the codes are administered and enforced, and what legal issues have arisen.


Additional issues to be examined include:

  • Due process
  • Enforcement policies and strategies, including removing offenders from vehicles/property, suspension orders, and appeals
  • ADA issues, including reasonable modification
  • Issues in regulating time spent at facilities; constitutional problems with loitering laws
  • First Amendment concerns involved in seeking to regulate loud conversation, annoying cellphone use, and offensive language
  • Second Amendment issues involved in regulating firearms
  • Racial, ethnic, or other illegal profiling and other discrimination issues
  • Public relations and training
  • Issues in regulating food and drinks
  • “Manspreading”, offensive odors, and other occupancy issues
  • Legal constraints on regulating animals, including service animals
  • Clothing and public exposure rules


The Legal Research Digest should include:

  1. A discussion of legal questions implicated by codes of conduct, identifying sources that explore such legal questions in depth.
  2. Reviews of various codes of conduct and common features.
  3. Reviews of lawsuits that have challenged or resulted from enforcement of codes of conduct.
  4. Recommended language for agencies to use in written codes.
  5. Recommended strategies for effective administration, training, and enforcement.
  6. Case studies of several properties that have implemented codes of conduct.
  7. Discussion of potential pitfalls: what terms or practices to avoid if possible.

Status: Research in Progress.

To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4507