Global research shows women don’t feel safe when it comes to using public transport. The UITP and World Bank reported that, “More than 90% of sexual harassment on public transport goes unreported” and “80% of women are afraid of being harassed on public transportation”.

An article in the Independent also highlighted that almost a third of women received ‘unwanted attention’ on public transport in the past year. Quite rightly women are taking a stance with the launch of the #MeToo campaign and also #BalanceTonMetro in response to the abuse women receive when travelling, as mentioned on France 24.

A complex problem

Unfortunately, it’s a huge problem – one which raises deep-seated questions about our society. Getting to the root causes, which are clearly complex and many, is the only way to truly find a solution. There’s certainly no overnight fix.

However, there’s a great deal we can do to help women feel safer. Organisations globally are working to highlight and address these issues, such as UN Women, International Transport Forum and UITP’s #PT4ME campaign.

Many are pushing for a greater diversity of individuals – including women – to make the ultra-critical decisions about our transport systems, reflecting the needs of everyone who uses them. Our Women in MaaS series is our attempt to shine the spotlight on the great work that women are doing in the industry and to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

The role of MaaS

There’s clearly a long way to go, but it’s important to keep taking steps in the right direction and to use every option at our disposal. And this includes technology – in particular, mobility-as-a-service (MaaS).

There’s no doubt that MaaS is changing the transportation landscape with its ability to aggregate data from an incredible number of sources to bring immense value to its travel users. Of course, access to data is a key issue but that aside, there’s the potential for MaaS to support the safety of women with near real-time information, tools and choices.

Here are just a few of the different ways we think MaaS could help:

1) Better route planning

Planning every leg of the journey with a MaaS app can help to reduce wait times on train stations, bus stops and other public areas such as taxi ranks. This is essential, particularly at times when women feel more vulnerable such as at night or when visiting unfamiliar places.

It allows women to feel more orientated, knowing exactly where they are throughout their whole journey (without the need for maps which only draws attention). If there’s a hold up or cancellation, it’s possible to gain notifications ahead of time and be provided with an alternative route or different transport choices.

2) First / last mile options

This is often the worst part of the journey, particularly if it’s at night or very early morning. Being able to see all the transport options available in one app helps women to make the best choice of mode for their circumstances. It could include shared transport, active travel, or nearby scooter or bicycle points if these options are available to them.

In addition, with better travel planning, as mentioned above, any issues en route can be notified through the app, along with readjusted arrival times so that last mile transport can be rearranged to minimise wait times between modes.

3) Safer active travel

Whether by choice or because it’s the only first mile / last mile option, ensuring the safety of active travel is quite complex. However, there are a few areas where MaaS can help if the data is available.

This could include the routes with the best street lighting, good cycle lanes, and busier options to avoid quiet side streets and remote areas where possible. GPS tracking which alerts friends and family of their route, including the expected time of arrival could all be part of the MaaS app.

4) Female-friendly transport

Being able to request a female driver though a MaaS app or choose from a ‘preferred’ driver list, could provide comfort to women wanting to take a ride hailing service. The same could apply to car sharing, so that women could be assured they’ll be sharing an all-female car to their destination.

Having the driver’s photo with their profile could help women to recognise them as the transport draws up. Driver choice – whether they are male or female – could also be based on a review system, to show drivers that had the best ratings, particularly from other women.

5) Safety alerts

Being alerted to problem ‘hotspots’ en route or ahead of time, ensures women know if there are any areas in particular that they should avoid. For example, real-time data (such as number of incidents that have occurred and of what nature) could overlay the route details, directly from within the MaaS app.

Details of ‘safe points’ in the local area such as the police station, transport customer service desks (with opening times) and helpline numbers can also be easily made accessible.

6) Incident reporting

By the same token, being able to easily log an incident and request assistance quickly via the MaaS app, with the exact location being automatically tracked, could not only provide women with peace of mind but it could also create an important log of where incidents are being reported.

Of course, connectivity is a problem on underground transport, such as in London, but that looks set to change with the recent article in Wired reporting that the Tube is going to be getting Wi-Fi. As more and more areas gain better coverage, over time this should become less of an issue.

These are just some of the ways that MaaS could help to support the safety of women on public and shared transport. It’s by no means exhaustive and other issues would need to be considered given the rise in shared and ride hailing options. But it is a start.

We’re always interested to hear what others have to say on the topic of transportation, particularly in relation to MaaS. If you have other thoughts on how MaaS could help women feel safer whilst travelling, then please comment below. 

Photo by Phil from Pexels

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