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Easing Women's Fear Of Using Transit

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Creating walkable, transit-connected communities requires paying attention to personal safety and, in particular, safety concerns of women. This month the Mineta Transportation Institute released its report, "How to Ease Women’s Fear of Transportation Environments: Case Studies and Best Practices."

The 96 page document by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Ph.D., provides a  comprehensive review of the literature on the topic, in-depth interviews with representatives of national interest groups, a survey of U.S. transit operators, and presentation of case studies and best practices from the U.S. and abroad.

"In general, women register much higher levels of fear of victimization in public and transit settings than men, which clearly affects their travel patterns and modal choices, and often makes them prefer—if they can afford it—the security of the private automobile over the unpredictability of public transportation," the report notes.

From interviews with women the authors compiled a series of design, policing, security technology, education and outreach strategies that would make women riders feel safer in public settings. But in talking to transit operators, the researchers found few agencies in the U.S. have programs that target the safety and security needs of women riders.

In addition, the attention to security issues tends to be mismatched with women's perceptions of the areas of risk.

"The concentration of security measures on the more enclosed and easily controllable parts of the transportation system (buses, trains, and station platforms) and the relative neglect of the more open and public parts (bus stops and parking lots) does not serve women’s needs well," the report notes. "Women passengers are typically more fearful of waiting at desolate bus stops or walking through parking lots devoid of human activity than being seated among other passengers on the bus or train."

The report concludes with series of recommendations that include:

  • Researcher-Practitioner Dialogues
  • Incorporating Women’s Voices in the Planning Process
  • Partnering with Local Non-profits
  • Prioritizing Needs
  • Adopting a “Whole Journey Approach”
  • Tailoring Safety/Security Initiatives to Particular Needs of Communities
  • Adopting a Multipronged Approach to Safety
  • Initiating Pilot Programs

The report is available in the Best Practices.

How to Ease Women’s Fear of Transportation Environments: Case Studies and Best Practices