The increased policy attention to gender in public transport in India has focused on women and is largely circumscribed by technological and project level interventions aimed at addressing and preventing gruesome incidents of violence. The accounts of sexual violence in the public sphere and Nirbhaya’s death in December 2012 galvanized action by civil society and different levels of government in creating safer public transportation systems.
However, public transport planning remains gender blind as city mobility plans rarely collect gender disaggregated data, investigate gendered trip chaining patterns, the mobility of care, inequities such as daily harassment, time poverty, forced mobility and forced immobility, lack of access to non-motorized vehicles and employment and growth in public transport organizations.
This is compounded by fragmented information on existing initiatives undertaken by public transportation authorities. For example, bus-based authorities have created toilets for transgender persons at city bus stands (Mysore), installed GPS devices and CCTV cameras, provided segregated seats and women only doors, conducted gender sensitization trainings, created Women Safety Committees (e.g. Bangalore) and reserved jobs for women drivers and conductors (e.g. Karnataka). Some of these were initiated prior to 2012, often on political requests or on receiving complaints. The implementation challenges, impact of these actions or the extent to which gender equity is rooted within the transport organization’s vision and goals has not been explored. Thus a wide area of research themes on gender and mobility in India remain uninvestigated.
This paper situates women’s security within a broader goal of gender equity; and identifies research gaps in moving the policy discourse towards gender equitable public transport systems. The research focuses on city bus services as they form the back bone of urban India’s public transportation system. The research was conducted at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and was first presented at the conference on “Urban Planning, Governance and Design for Reducing Urban Conflicts and Violence: Critical Learnings and Possibilities”, March 2-4, 2016, Ahmedabad.
Sonal Shah is Senior Manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, where she coordinates urban planning projects, policy and research. She has 12 years’ experience in over a dozen cities in India, on city-scale to neighbourhood plans, transit oriented development and station accessibility planning to street design, historic precinct conservation, gender, urban redevelopment and housing policy research.
She wears dual hats as a practitioner and educator. In addition to co-teaching undergraduate urban design studios and graduate history and theory of planning courses, she has conducted capacity building sessions and workshops with professionals, government officials and practitioners. She has presented in numerous conferences such as Safe and Inclusive Cities Conference (Ahmedabad), Transed (Delhi), Walk 21 (Munich), Eco-mobility Conference (Changwon), Talking Transit (Bhopal) and ConnectKaro (Bangalore and Mumbai).
Sonal previously worked with reputed organizations such as the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, World Resources Institute and with the late Charles Correa at the Urban Design Research Institute. She completed a B.Arch from KRVIA, Mumbai University and MSc Urban Planning from Columbia University.