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Women More Likely to Feel Unsafe on Public Transport

A new international study shows that, on average, women are 10 percent more likely than men to feel unsafe on metro trains (trains that go underground) and 6 percent more likely than men to feel unsafe on buses.

Researchers from Imperial College London analyzed more than 327,000 passenger responses to Customer Satisfaction Surveys (CSSs) from 28 cities across four continents between the years 2009 to 2018.

They found that the largest difference between women and men’s perceptions of safety was in Europe, where women were 12 percent more likely to report feeling unsafe than men.

The smallest difference was in South America, where women were 9 percent more likely to report feeling unsafe than men. The researchers say the findings shed light on an important social issue that could be preventing some women from thriving both personally and professionally.

“Feeling unsafe can lead to social, professional, economic, and health problems for those affected,” said lead author Dr. Laila Ait Bihi Ouali, of Imperial’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

β€œIn this case, women who feel unsafe on public transport might turn down shift work at certain times of day, or avoid social or work events that require travelling a certain route.”

“Our study was conducted on data from before the coronavirus outbreak, but its message will be just as important when life resumes as normal.”

The findings are published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A.

Every year, public transportation operators send passengers online CSSs that are designed to measure general feelings of satisfaction with their networks. The surveys ask passengers their level of agreement with various statements about availability, time, information, comfort, security, customer care, accessibility, environment, and overall satisfaction.

The response options are usually: agree strongly; agree; neither agree nor disagree; disagree; or disagree strongly.

To conduct the study, the research team analyzed 327,403 completed responses to CSSs from 2009 to 2018.

As well as measuring overall satisfaction scores, the team focused on responses to three questions pertaining to feelings of “security” and assigned numbers from one to five for each potential response (one for “agree strongly;” five for “disagree strongly”) to quantify the responses.

Then the researchers compared the scores between men and women, and looked at whether they differed alongside characteristics of the transport network like rates of violence on the network, numbers of cars per train, and busyness of vehicles and stations.

The findings show that around half of women surveyed felt safe on urban public transport (45 percent felt safe in metro trains and stations; 55 percent felt safe in buses), but that women were 10 percent more likely than men to report feeling unsafe in metro trains and stations, and 6 percent more likely than men to feel unsafe in buses.

The research also found that women were overall less satisfied than men with public transport services, but the gap between genders for satisfaction was far less than for safety (gap of 3 percent for satisfaction on metros; 2.5 percent gap for satisfaction on buses). The researchers say that this demonstrates that safety is an important part of overall passenger satisfaction.

In addition, the researchers found that having more staff on metro trains doesn’t seem to be linked to feelings of safety, but that more staff at stations were correlated with increased feelings of safety, as were metro trains, metro stations, and buses with more passengers onboard.

Higher levels of violence on transport networks, particularly robberies, were tied to reduced feelings of safety, as were having more carriages per train, and carriages that were larger.

The researchers say that quantifying feelings of safety on public transport with operators’ own data could help contribute towards creating tangible goals, which operators could use to improve people’s feelings of safety.

“Our research exposes a gap in passenger safety levels that’s often overlooked. We hope that by putting a figure on feelings of safety, urban metro and bus companies can take measures to boost women’s feelings of safety and reduce the gap between genders,” said Ouali.

Source: Imperial College London

Women More Likely to Feel Unsafe on Public Transport

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Women More Likely to Feel Unsafe on Public Transport. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Mar 2020 (Originally: 30 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 30 Mar 2020
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