How Safe Is Public Transportation for Women?

Not only does public transportation help reduce road congestion, travel times, air pollution, and energy and oil consumption, but it also gives individuals around the world access to many opportunities to shape their lives including education, employment, and other possibilities. However, a dark cloud looms over this essential service – women’s safety concerns on public transit. Sexual harassment, assault, and theft have become pervasive issues, affecting women during various stages of their transit journey. This can include when getting on or off transit, within the vehicle, at stoppages, and even next to a stop when simply waiting for transit to arrive. 

What Is The Cause? 

The root causes are embedded in cultural attitudes and gender norms that normalize harassment and violence. 

Continuous Global Experiences

In a report conducted by the International Transport Forum, in India, a Safecity Railway Audit report showed 54% of people experienced sexual harassment. 88% of these individuals were women. Most women did not report their experiences to the police as they were unaware of their rights under the law or just accepted it as a part of their everyday life. 

Transportation Bias 

Men and women have very different experiences on public transportation. A survey done by Loa Angeles METRO in 2019 found that 60% of women felt safe using Metro during the day, but that fell to 20% during the night. Safety was found to not be a concern at all for men in this study. It even found that women’s clothing and shoe choices reflected on their safety projections and the chances of encountering an unsafe event. Some only wore sneakers in case there was a need to run and others did not wear a skirt for fear men would sexually harass them. 

What Can Be Done To Help Increase Safety?

There are several ways safety can be increased and many have shown to be helpful including the following instances. 

Public Safety Campaigns 

Public transit can create campaigns to create awareness and education about sexual harassment and assault on public transit. According to a sexual assault on BART attorney (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, a renowned American sexual abuse law firm, the 2021 “Not One More Girl” campaign from BART was created to do just that. After a year, BART reported that the initiative had in fact reduced harassment and improved safety perceptions.

Women-Only Micotransit 

Several countries have opted to create women-only transit services including Germany and Japan. Both countries have women-only cars and trains aimed at providing a safer environment for women during their journey. 

Up The Ante On Existing Resources 

To enhance safety, existing resources can be upgraded and expanded:

  • Surveillance cameras: Some assailants may not commit a crime if they know a camera is on them. If a crime does still happen, more cameras can help identify the individual so they can be brought to justice. 
  • Better lighting: ensuring all lighting near public transit is lit. This increases the chances of crimes not being committed and helps capture more detail of the individual on camera. 
  • Security personnel: Maintaining or increasing the presence of security personnel contributes to a safer transit environment. Visible security can deter potential offenders and provide a sense of security for passengers. 
  • On-Time Schedules: Continue striving for punctual transit schedules. Delays or unpredictable schedules can provide assailants with more opportunities to commit offenses.
  • Emergency Buttons: Installing emergency buttons in transit vehicles and at stops is a proactive measure. These buttons can alert authorities or drivers, prompting swift action or rescue. In some cases, the alert can be broadcast through loudspeakers to inform all passengers of the situation.

While public transportation is a cornerstone of societal progress, addressing women’s safety concerns is paramount. By understanding the root causes, implementing targeted interventions, and upgrading existing resources, we can pave the way for a future where all individuals, regardless of gender, can traverse public spaces without fear or hesitation. Advocating for these changes is not just a call to action; it’s a commitment to creating a safer and more inclusive world for everyone.

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