The National Academies

TCRP Synthesis J-07/Topic SH-24 [Active (Synthesis)]

Impacts of Fentanyl and Substance Use on Transit
[ TCRP J-07 (Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $55,000
Staff Responsibility: Jamaal Schoby
Research Agency: Leading Mobility
Principal Investigator: David Cooper
Effective Date: 12/22/2023
Completion Date: 5/23/2023
Comments: Research in Progress.
Fiscal Year: 2023



Fentanyl and illegal substance abuse have increased inside transit since the Covid-19 pandemic. Drug use appears rampant in Metro systems across the country.

Synthesis Objective

The objective of this synthesis is to document the current practices of transit systems dealing with illegal substances like methamphetamine and fentanyl use in their transit vehicles and stations.  The synthesis should assess the current use of methamphetamine and fentanyl in transit, describe the types of interventions, and the results of such interventions.

Information To be Gathered

The Synthesis shall include at the minimum:

a. Determine if and how transit agencies across North America have documented illegal substances like methamphetamine and fentanyl use in the transit systems

       Identify the type of data sources

       Time of day, location, facility type, mode, on-vehicle and off-vehicle (total transit environment)

b.      Document the health, safety, and hygiene impacts on transit employees and passengers from methamphetamine and fentanyl use in the transit systems

       Document biohazard issues related to the health impacts of drug use.

c.       Document the way transit systems respond to methamphetamine and fentanyl use on the transit environment

d.      Identify how methamphetamine and fentanyl use in transit systems affects passengers’ feelings of safety while using the transit system

e.       Collect information on how local/state statute changes related to drug crime classification (felony/misdemeanor) have influenced the level of drug use on transit.

The case studies shall also include at a minimum:

a.       Document how the agency is responding to security incidents related to drug use (for example overdoses, crowds of people, disruption to transit operations, rights of way intrusion, dealing drugs, unhoused encampments, etc.)

b.      Document how the agency is dealing with clients who overdose in transit vehicles and stations.

c.       Document the relationship between drug activity and ridership patterns in that agency (open vs. controlled system; free fare programs, etc.)

Information will be gathered

Information will be gathered by a literature review (e.g., agency reports, peer reviewed journal articles, web articles) and a survey on a broad range of North American transit agencies. The report should include a minimum of five case examples that gather information on the state-of-the-practice, emphasizing lessons learned, current practices, challenges, and gaps.

Information Sources

Horney, D. (2023) Drug use on Sound Transit trains is intolerable. Seattle Times

Uranga, R. (2023) L.A. riders bail on Metro trains amid 'horror' of deadly drug overdoses, crime.

Los Angeles Times https://news.trimet.org/2023/03/trimet-participates-in-first-of-its-kind-multi-agency-study- addressing-drug-use-on-transit-systems/


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