Women don’t feel safe on public transit – and it’s costing them money

In a major city like New York, using public transit is less of an option and more of a requirement if the goal is to go anywhere. But when women ride the subway, a new report suggests they know they’re likely to fall prey to harassment.

Seventy-five percent of female respondents self-reported experiencing some form of harassment or theft while riding New York’s public transit, according to a survey by New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation. More than half of them are worried about being harassed during their rides.

When asked how many times they had experienced harassment, respondents included answers such as “countless” and “too many to count.”

Because of perceived safety threats, women change their behavior on public transit; 13% said they dressed differently and 29% don’t take late-night trains. That’s compared to only 3% of men who said they changed their clothing and 8% who avoided public transportation after a certain hour.

To feel safe, women sometimes opt for a for-hire vehicle or cab service. But those alternatives to public transit weigh heavy on their bank accounts.

The Rudin Center estimated that the median extra transportation cost for women because of safety concerns was $26-50 per month, or up to $600 per year. That number multiplies for female caregivers, who are responsible for transporting children and elderly family members, and who face logistical challenges as well as perceived safety risks. The study estimated female caregivers can spend an extra $100 per month, or $1200 a year, on travel.

In contrast, men spend a median $0 per month extra on transportation because of security concerns.

But all is not lost! Experts have suggestions about how to improve the situation so women feel safer as they try to do everyday things, like go to work. For starters, public transit companies could put women in leadership positions to inform their safety systems and make them better for everyone. First responders could get more sensitivity training so that women who report harassment are greeted with the support they need. And technology could be updated so that monitoring and reporting become more effective.

It’s a fact that women pay more for all kinds of services, but they shouldn’t have to undergo financial stress because they feel unsafe coming home from work or after a night out. Here’s to finding the solutions that will make everyone feel more comfortable and empowered as they live their lives.