2014-02-19

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Making Public Transport Gender Equal

How much do the different travelling habits of women and men cost? A study from Malmö, Sweden, on this issue shows that the way men like to travel entails greater environmental and economic costs. If men start adapting women's travelling habits, the gains to society would be significant.

The city of Malmö is planning to build two new tram lines. As part of this work, the project Framtidens kollektivtrafik i Malmö (future public transport in Malmö) has used the most recent study on transport habits to estimate costs and benefits in terms of growth, the environment, integration and gender equality.

‘We have figured out how the new tram lines will affect women and men, and girls and boys. One thing we found was that the different habits of women and men are different from an environmental perspective,’ says project leader Daniel Svanfelt.

Develop the Public Transport

Svanfelt says that women choose sustainable alternatives to a larger extent than men. Men travel by car much more than women. Men use a car for 48 per cent of their transport needs. For women the number is 34 per cent.

‘At the City of Malmö, we see public transport as a key to change. If we can make it more user-friendly, accessible, safe and comfortable, it may encourage more men to start travelling like women.’

‘If we can make it more user-friendly, accessible, safe and comfortable, it may encourage more men to start travelling like women.’

But what will happen if more women start travelling like men? If this were to happen, almost half of the travel in the city would be done by car. In contrast, if men started to travel like women, only one-third would.

Women’s Transport Habits Benefit Society

If women were to start travelling like men, the land area reserved for transports would go up by 12 per cent. The required area for parked vehicles would go up by 14 per cent. That corresponds to about 200 town squares the size of Möllevångstorg in central Malmö.

‘Particle emissions would decrease by 21 per cent and nitrogen emissions by 25 per cent. And the noise level would go down by 1 decibel.’

‘But if the opposite were to happen, if men started travelling like women, then the CO2 emissions would go down by 31 per cent,’ says Daniel Svanfelt. ‘Particle emissions would decrease by 21 per cent and nitrogen emissions by 25 per cent. And the noise level would go down by 1 decibel. A land area worth about 800 million SEK would be freed up.’

So society would have a lot to gain. Reduced negative effects on the environment, accidents and noise imply annual savings of 300 million SEK. The reduction in tax revenues from car use is relatively small in this context: about 130 million SEK per year.

‘The net effect would be almost 1 billion SEK. That’s a lot of tax money that could be saved,’ says Lena Göransson, division manager at the roadworks department.

New Dialogue Methods

The city has also assessed the participation in decision-making and planning concerning the public transport system. Research shows that women do not participate in dialogue meetings to the same extent as men. And when they do participate, they talk less.

‘It has to do with women not having been able to make their voices heard. This is also true for adolescents and the foreign-born. We tried giving special invitations to young people. And we had researchers document how we acted towards the citizens attending the dialogue meetings,’ says Göransson.

Important Lessons

The documentation shows that the dialogues did not turn out well when conducted in large groups. Many people felt uncomfortable voicing their opinions. The different city departments need to identify gender-equal ways to collect people’s feedback.

‘It doesn’t work to say: Welcome to the city hall to talk about trams. Instead we should ask: How would you like us to plan our public transport to make it work better for you? We must move our focus from technology to people’s everyday experiences. We need to adjust our channels in order to reach people where they are, for example online.’

‘We must move our focus from technology to people’s everyday experiences.’

Göransson and Svanfelt are eager to emphasise that the whole thing is a continuous development process.

‘Next winter we’re planning on testing the new dialogue methods. We’re going to measure the participation of women and men in terms of time spent talking and see how long we have come. We hope and think we’ll see some improvements.’

Edited: 11 Jan 2017
Published: 19 Feb 2014
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