The National Academies

TCRP B-53 [Pending]

Addressing Travel Needs of Women on Public Transportation

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Contract Time: 26 months
Staff Responsibility: Dianne S Schwager


Since the 1970s research presented at domestic and international conferences has documented and addressed areas where the travel needs of women are distinct, such as 

  • Trip-making patterns and complexity (e.g., modes used, time of day, distance from home, trip chaining, and trip length),
  • Safety and security concerns,
  • Comfort and privacy issues,
  • Demographic factors (e.g., age, income, race, and pregnancy),
  • Fares and payment programs, (e.g., the absence of family fares),
  • Employment (e.g., location, time of day, and part-time jobs), and
  • Time poverty and household responsibilities (e.g., caring for and traveling with infants and toddlers, school-aged children, elderly family members, people with disabilities, and greater responsibility for household errands).  

An important conclusion from the research is that disparities and imbalances exist for women that impose burdens and limitations on mobility and access. To date, this awareness has not been widely translated into inclusive planning, policies, and practices to mitigate the burdens and limitations and to effectively address the travel needs of women. 

Recently some public transportation agencies, such as Los Angeles Metro, have initiated programs and a Gender Action Plan designed to: (1) raise awareness of gender differences in travel, (2) ensure diverse gender perspectives are considered in policies, programs, projects, and services, (3) address gender gaps in policies, programs, projects, and services, (4)  improve quality and accessibility of public transportation services for women, and (5) create measurable progress toward  gender gap goals.  

Major barriers exist to effectively address the travel needs of women.

  • Lack of gender-specific data. Public transportation and planning agencies lack an understanding of how, when, and why women travel; how services, vehicles, and facilities should be designed; and how public transportation can be delivered in a way that works for women. 
  • Incomplete planning methods and policies. Planners and policymakers need tools to mitigate the imbalances and disparities related to serving the travel needs of women to (1) conduct comprehensive assessments of transportation systems from a gender perspective; (2) identify gaps and challenges that affect women’s mobility and safety; (3) develop targeted policies and interventions to address these issues; and (4) monitor travel behavior patterns, so that policies, investments, and services can be adjusted to meet gender-based equity goals overtime.

Research is needed to understand and address the travel needs and experiences of women.  


The objective of this research is to develop a practical resource for public transportation agencies, planning organizations, and their partnering organizations to (1) improve the travel experience of women and all travelers, (2) foster gender-inclusive decision-making, and (3) increase the use of fixed-route transit services, microtransit, on-demand services, and non-motorized travel connections. The resource should address more inclusive decision-making for all aspects of public transportation planning, operations, and capital investments.  

The resource should present best practices and approaches to: 

  • Examine conventional and historic travel and public transportation data collection and planning methods and how they can be more gender-inclusive and equitable.
  • Address the complete public transportation journey of women (i.e., travel on various modes and access to and from transit services) in particular the special circumstances that distinguish travel needs of women (e.g., mobility of care, pregnancy, and disability).  
  • Identify and assess  policies and practices that can be adopted at federal, state, local, and public transportation agency-levels to better serve the travel needs of women.
  • Leverage and disaggregate available data, gathered through research and prior planning initiatives, to address the travel needs of women from different demographic groups and different travel patterns. 
  • Identify data (including specific characteristics and attributes of the data) that should be gathered in the future that support gender-inclusive decision-making and address the travel needs of women.
  • Present methods to collect, evaluate and examine data, develop metrics, and measure outcomes consistent with this project’s objectives.
  • Provide gender-inclusive communications assets for use by public transportation agencies, including a self-assessment tool and examples of public-facing assets.
  • Use language, consistent with the research objectives, throughout the final deliverable(s). 


The research plan will describe appropriate deliverables that include, but are not limited to, the following (which also represent key project milestones):

  1. An amplified research plan that responds to comments provided by the project panel at the contractor selection meeting.
  2. An interim report and panel meeting. The interim report should include the analyses and results of completed tasks, an update of the remaining tasks, and a detailed outline of the final research product(s). The panel meeting will take place after the panel review of the interim report. The interim report and panel meeting should occur after the expenditure of no more than 40 percent of the project budget.
  3. Final deliverables that present the entire research product that will be useful to a practitioners and stakeholders with an executive summary, visualization tools, and public-facing educational and outreach materials.
  4. A technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.
  5. A webinar that presents the research findings and conclusions.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.


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