Why Don’t Women Feel Safe Riding Public Transit?


We’ve all had that moment of realization, walking through a lonely parking lot or waiting at a dimly lit subway station at night: “I’m extremely vulnerable right now.”  And while some of us are certified bad-asses, most of us rely on little more than our wits, common sense and perhaps a can of pepper spray.

We want to take advantage of all the conveniences and environmental benefits of public transit, but we often don’t feel safe doing so. What gives? To find out, Planetizen spoke to UCLA’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, author of a recent study that revealed that transit agencies are failing to involve women in the planning process.

Regardless of what the statistics may be of crimes committed on and around public transit systems, the fact is that women often feel unsafe, and Loukaitou-Sideris says it all boils down to needs that aren’t being met. Loukaitou-Sideris’ study found that women are much more scared waiting at the bus stop or transit station than within the transit vehicle itself, yet most transportation agencies only focus safety resources on the vehicles.

“Women were also not comforted knowing that there was a camera or CCT technology,” Loukaitou-Sideris told Planetizen. “They were not against it, but they felt that if anything happened to them the camera would only help after the event, not during. So they were much more in favor of more policing, human solutions rather than technological solutions. Yet the trend is towards more technology, not less.”

That might have something to do with the fact that upper-level management at transit agencies is primarily made up of men, who have likely never been sexually harassed, groped or worse at the park-and-ride. The solution, says Loukaitou-Sideris, is for transit authorities to listen to what women have to say about safety.

“Transportation planners really need to look at women’s fears in transportation settings and know that there are things that they can do to if not completely eliminate but reduce these fears. These solutions involve policy, design, policing, and outreach and education.”

Image: lawmurray

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.