Surprise! Women often feel unsafe while taking public transportation and even change their routes to avoid the spaces they fear.
In her latest study, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris looks at what women fear the most when taking public transportation, what women need, and what innovative solutions are out there.
In 2006, Loukaitou-Sideris and team did a survey of all transit agencies throughout the U.S. that had more than 50 public transportation vehicles. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed were men. (Maybe it’s time the transit agencies hired more women.) She then interviewed women about their fears when it comes to public transportation. What she found was that there are some major mismatches between what the transit authorities are doing and what women need. What’s even more disturbing, is that the study found two-thirds of survey respondents from the transit agencies believed women travelers have specific, needs but only one-third felt that agencies should address those needs. So it’s not surprising that only three percent of agencies even had programs specifically for women.
Women’s Concerns about Riding Public Transportation
In her interviews with women, Loukaitou-Sideris found that:
-Women are much more scared waiting at the bus stop or transit station then the enclosed spaces of the vehicle and that fear increases when it gets dark and when the parking lots or bus stations are dimly lit
-Women do not feel comfortable when there is a camera (the reports states women said that having a camera does not make them feel like a crime will be prevented and will only help after an incident. Many women seemed much more in favor of having more staff and police around).
-Women feel less safe when there is an “absence of visible staff and other passengers” and are very fearful of empty transit vehicles and/or transit vehicles with only one other passenger.
What Women Want:
According to the report, design strategies that would meet the needs of women would include:
-Placing bus stops in areas near people and activities
-Improved lighting at bus stops, train platforms, parking lots, and streets
-Increasing staff and police presence
–Anti-sexual harassment and assault campaigns
-Reliable information about bus schedules to reduce wait time
-Incorporating women in the transportation planning processes
-Concentrate resources in the areas of crime hotspots since cost is always a concern
Since fear of crime affects ridership, it seems logical for WMATA to consider the safety concerns of their riders and address sexual harassment and assault. We can only hope that WMATA reads Loukaituo-Sideris’ report and listens to the needs of the community when they finally decide to figure out how to address sexual harassment and assault.
For more information check out Loukaituo-Sideris’ full report, How to Ease Women’s Fear Of Transportation Environments: Case Studies and Best Practices (October 2009) and read her interview with Planetizen.