March 24, 2022

Want to Get Women Walking & On Public Transit? Address Safety

There’s a new research study from the Technical University of Dublin that shows that TransLink is going in the right direction in seriously addressing the “last mile” problem, of how to get people safely to and from their residences once they get off public transit.

Research undertaken by Dr. Maria Chiara Leva and Dr. Sarah Rock have written “travelling in a woman’s shoes”, for Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

Looking at women and equity, the researchers spoke to public rail transit users and non-users to ascertain the barriers to transit use in Dublin, Barcelona and Warsaw. What they found is that women walk and rely on public transit more than men, and that women would be willing to bike and use public transit more if they felt safer doing that.

Researchers found that transport’s role in facilitating equity of access of “key life chances and daily needs”.

Inequity of access impacts women more than men, in the area of “safety and time poverty” .

The researchers concentrated work in three areas involving women’s use of public transit: the ability to address basic mobility needs, physical and monetary accessibility and safety and security. For women using public transit, safety using the service was just as important as getting to the destination. Research found that the more comfortable a woman was on the public transport system the more likely she was to continue use of the service.

Safety and security was especially important for women of an ethnic minority and for low-income groups, who also rely on public transit. When travelling with children or family members, women selected another way of access, usually a private vehicle.

The researchers were able to ascertain what makes a difference in perceived safety and security for their respondents That included having clear transit based “norms” regarding harassment and behaviour, and the presence of an authority individual who could intervene.

Physical changes for security and comfort included  clean well lit areas around stations and stops that were camera monitored, and welcomed “eyes on the street”, as well as being in an area where other people could overlook and give a sense of safety.

The lack of these factors does limit the recruitment of women for “certain front-line jobs” and for doing work at night.

Data from  an ITE report (International Transportation Engineers) in 2019 showed that close to forty percent of all public transport journeys globally are for caring for others, including travelling with children and seniors, and  shopping. Of the people doing caring for others, women are estimated to make up eighty percent of that metric, and most walk or use public transportation to their jobs or as part of their caring work.

The researchers recommend that future transportation planning include these substantial “care journeys”.

That in itself is an issue as well as regional transit systems in the public sector in Europe and the United Kingdom have the  “lowest representation of women within the public sector at 6.25% and that women account for just 15% in most decision-making bodies and advisory boards (Sustrans, 2018).”




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