Uneasy Riders

bus rider

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris is a professor of Urban Planning in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA. One theme of her work is the sidewalk, specifically the experience of women as they negotiate the spaces that connect places of shelter - a car, an office building, a store, a home . . . or a bus.

In a recent interview with Planetizen, Loukaitou-Sideris noted that:

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"(W)omen have significant concerns about riding transit, and there is a mismatch between the practices of transportation agencies and some of the wishes of women riders. For example, women are much more scared waiting at the bus stop or transit station than within the enclosed space of the transit vehicle. Yet most transportation safety resources are concentrated on the vehicle. Women were also not comforted knowing that there was a camera or CCT technology. They were not against it, but they felt that if anything happened to them the camera would only help after the event, not during. So they were much more in favor of more policing, human solutions rather than technological solutions. Yet the trend is towards more technology, not less."

The implications will have a profound impact on the future of public transit in Los Angeles.

"Transit agencies have to do something about (fear), because after all, 51 percent of their users are women. So even from the standpoint of expanding the transit market, it is a real issue," Loukaitou-Sideris notes.

It's a real issue, but it's being poorly addressed. I recently interviewed Art Leahy, the CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and asked him how his agency was addressing the comfort of women riders as a way of expanding voluntary transit use by those who would otherwise drive. Leahy didn't have any specific answers.

And the problem may not even be Leahy's to resolve.

According to Loukaitou-Sideris, crimes of all kinds are more common in the vicinity of the rail station than within the station itself, making "security hardened" transit facilities meaningless for riders. "(T)here are so many components to today's transit stations," Loukaitou-Sideris points out, "like park-and-ride lots, escalators, elevators. They really need to look at all of these components and how they link to the rest of the city, because a lot of the crime happens in these in-between spaces."

"In between" aptly describes the experience of using public transit. The way to and from each leg of a bus/train trip includes stretches of sidewalk that can be a permanent barrier for more than half of the potential ridership.

The image on this page was made by Flickr user tezzer57. It was used under a Creative Commons license.

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