It was 10 p.m. on a Tuesday, and Candice Cho was waiting for a bus on a mostly -deserted Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. A self-proclaimed lover of public transit, Cho said she is always careful about her safety, sometimes holding keys in her hands, putting in headphones to avoid unwanted conversation and being mindful of her surroundings. The bus was about half an hour away when a man approached her and started screaming in her face, words like “konichiwa” and “Tokyo.”
“Every time he would circle and get closer to me, I would start to back away,” said Cho, who is 40. “I felt unsafe and like I really needed to get out of there because I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Cho, with her back to a wall to stop the man from circling her, decided to use a rideshare app to call a car to her location. A driver was there within five minutes to take her to her destination several miles away. Cho, now a leader in the AAPI Equity Alliance and Stop AAPI Hate, said she doesn’t take public transit much anymore.
Experiences like that of Cho and other Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) women inspired Senator Dave Min of California, a Democrat, to introduce on Monday legislation titled the “Public Transit for All: Improving Safety and Increasing Ridership” along with Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks acts of hate and violence against AAPI people. If passed, the bill will require the state’s 10 largest public transit systems to collect qualitative and quantitative survey data to reduce street harassment, increase riders’ sense of safety and bring ridership numbers up. The proposed law builds on a related bill that was passed with overwhelming support and signed into law last September authorizing the creation of the survey tool.