The C is for Crank

The Gender Gap in Public Transit

By Erica C. Barnett February 2, 2012



A new study from Stanford University concludes that studies of public transit fail to consider the type of trips taken by women---an oversight that leads transit agencies to fail to provide for women's transit needs.

Specifically, transit agencies tend to completely ignore trips that involve taking care of a child or relative---trips that are predominately taken by women. When researchers asked transit riders whether their trips involved care---as opposed to the usual categories, which include getting to and from work, going to school, and leisure, 25 percent said they were using transit for care purposes, including getting kids to and from school, visiting sick relatives, and shopping for kids.

Additionally, the study found, transit agencies  fail to factor in the fact that women with kids are twice as likely as men to engage in "trip-chaining"---taking the kids to school, picking them up, and doing household errands on their way to and from work.

All this despite the fact that women use transit more than men do, regardless of race.

What are the implications? The Atlantic suggests that if transit agencies take women's needs into account, they will provide easier boarding and wider aisles (for women with strollers or heavy bags) and more transit service in care-related sites, like parks, daycares, and schools. Additionally, transit agencies could include more women on their boards, the Atlantic suggests. Although Sound Transit, the regional transit agency for the Puget Sound, is led by a woman, Joni Earl, its 16-member board is dominated by men, with just four female members. (It's all-white, too).

For another transit rider's perspective on riding while female (and with a stroller), check out Sightline's Alyse Nelson, who talked about riding transit with a toddler last month.
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