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How to ease women's fear of transportation environments: Case studies and best practices
The relationship between women's fear and the built environment has been the subject of research with clear findings that women feel unsafe in many public spaces. These often include transportation environments. Desolate bus stops and train cars, dimly lit park-and-ride lots and parking structures, but also overcrowded transit vehicles represent stressful settings for many women, who often feel compelled to change their transportation modes and travel patterns in order to avoid them. Past research has shown that transit passengers' fears and concerns about safety influence their travel decisions. But while the relationship between women's fear of crime and public space has been the focus of considerable research, transit environments have received less attention. This study seeks to address this gap by, 1) identifying the perspectives and needs of women regarding safety from crime in transit environments through a comprehensive literature review and in depth interviews with representatives of 16 national women's interest groups; 2) assessing if these needs are met by transit agencies, through a survey of 131 U.S. transit operators; and 3) discussing model programs and best practices from the U.S. and overseas that address women's concerns about safe travel. We found that women transit passengers have some distinct travel travel needs, but these needs are not well addressed in the U.S., where only a handful of transit operators have specific programs in place targeting the safety needs of women riders. In contrast, some other countries have adopted specific measures and policies in response to women's transit safety needs. We also found a mismatch between the expressed needs of women passengers and the types and locations of common safety/security strategies adopted by transit agencies. Based on feedback from our interviews and case studies, we offer a series of policy recommendations.