Wednesday , 18 September 2019

Women, Cities and Transport

Krishna Prasad: One feature that makes a city smart is the sustainable mobility. So we are talking about a paradigm shift from private transport to public transport.

While talking about women and mobility, it is essential to look at the role of women in economic development. When proper opportunities are not given to women to participate in in the economic development of a country, we are losing a lot. We are losing more than 300 trillion dollars globally for not having given that opportunity for the women. Basically, 9 out of 10 trips taken up by women in a city are either in public transport or on foot. So, this 9 out of 10 trips is a fact of constraint, not a fact of opportunity. So, how do we move this fact of constraint to fact of opportunity? How do we turn this upside down so that we give more opportunities to women to be mobile and go to the workplace for the economic development of the country? How do we shift this 9 out of 10 trips to different modes of transport so that they are more secure, comfortable, fresh and not fatigued, when they go to their workplace?

The trips taken up by the women are much complicated as they do more trips to do multiple tasks before reaching their destination. Often, these trips are very short and small, therefore forcing women to walk more.

Organically, Indian cities are growing linearly; they are not doing a radial development. How do we make some kind of a landuse plan in such a manner that the workplace and the residential areas are not going to be divided so much and we make compact cities so that the travel distance and the travel time, both are compressed.
Krishna Prasad

We are living in a huge combination of matrix of contradictions. We have 25% of private vehicles occupying 70% of the carriageway and 50% of the trips are on foot and on cycles without proper cycle track or footpaths.People are willing to use the public transport but the number of buses are coming down. All these contradictions are there simultaneously as challenges to all of us.

Women’s preferred mode of transport is public transport but do they feel safe in buses or waiting for public transport during night? We need to look at redesigning the entire apparatus.

One way is to concentrate only on those who are actually causing inconvenience to women. The second way is to isolate or insulate women under vulnerable timings so that their travel is safe. The third is concentrating on the overall system.

We can also take preventive measures and do incident management & post incident operations. The preventive methodology could be a CCTV network, it could be the cops in decoy. The NGO’s and the government can work together to address what is making this behavioural difference or the behavioural change from city to city. Why something is tolerated in one city and something is not tolerated in another city. In Mumbai, harassment to women in public transport is not tolerated by anybody; they will immediately object, react, respond, and do something about it. But in other places I don’t see the same thing happening

Prof Amita Bhide: In the context of Mumbai city, which is overall known in some ways for being safe for women, a mode of public transport – the suburban rail — has played an extremely typical role in creating that overall ethos of safety for women has engendered the entire system of transport.

Secondly, over the years, by sheer neglect of attending to the improvement of infrastructure and associated aspects we have made this extremely safe, highly gendered form of public transport which has been the lifeline of women in Mumbai, into a fairly unsafe and insecure zone.

TISS did a study about two years ago using a sample of over 3000 women across the three main suburban rail lines of Mumbai and in addition to that we conducted 20 focus-group discussions with different groups of women.

The entire safety grid starts unravelling when you look at the geography of Mumbai city. The island city has the best connects between mobility & infrastructure and the best safety experiences. Here, rail services are extremely well embedded within other services such as BEST buses and give an end to end public transport experience. Stations are also embedded within an overall system of markets, other institutions, which are walkable, so the thickness of the public transport network is extremely high. As one moves to suburbs of Mumbai or to Thane district, these inter-connections become loose and safety emerges as an issue.

Expanding beyond the notion of safety; transport, mobility and the overall city design contribute to how women can access the city. Services of suburban rail are not geared both to growing number as well as changing patterns of women commuters. Increasing numbers of women work shifts, nonregular hours and it is necessary to provide for them.
Prof Amita Bhide

We found in our study that even now the actual number of women who accept that they have experienced harassment themselves or experienced any threatening incident themselves is less than 30 percent. But both actual threats as well as perceptions of ‘risk’ can lead to non-access. What is very important is to create safety.

There are many features that contribute making commuting experience safe or unsafe for women. One of the prime ones is the presence or absence of security personnel. The lighting in the station and surrounding area is critical. The presence of itinerants inside the station but also outside is another factor contributing to the feeling of safety. We saw that there were several platforms in Mumbai which were left totally to itinerants and there is no control there at all. The locations of seating areas for women, waiting area in stations which have stairs, and ladies compartment vis-à-vis the station are very important.

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