Making public transport more women-friendly

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Making public transport more women-friendly Walking roadside. India. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

As cities strive to make public transport and public spaces more women-friendly, it is important for them to review existing policies, guidelines and regulations.  

Are fares set in such a manner that women who make frequent short trips a day do not end up paying more than men who travel longer distances?

Do recruitment policies give both men and women an equal chance of qualifying as conductors, drivers, ticket collectors etc? If, for instance, the minimum height required for a bus driver are set stringently, many women applicants will not be able to apply.

Then, do procurement guidelines take the needs of women into account by placing orders for low-floor buses with side-rails or lower handrails? And does the design of metro stations include nursing rooms for breastfeeding mothers? The list could go on.  

So where can cities begin? First, review these three questions:  

  1. Which current policies, guidelines, regulations promote gender- inclusive public transport facilities and public spaces?  
  1. Do these address the challenges identified by women and persons of minority genders in surveys and safety audits?  
  1. Do they provide space to introduce new measures for gender-responsive services?  


  • Consider developing gender action plans embedded within cities’ Comprehensive Mobility Plans (CMP), in line with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. This can help mainstream gender issues in the CMP and lead to budgetary allocations for proposed actions.  
  • Ensure that procurement guidelines and model contracts incorporate gender sensitive design for stations, bus stops, buses, metros and service delivery.
  • Formulate policies so that procurement from women-led enterprises can be incentivized by public transport authorities and municipal agencies.
  • Enhance women’s safety by employing more women in frontline roles – such as bus drivers, conductors, security guards, ticket collectors etc. As a first step, cities can review recruitment policies to ease barriers for hiring women in frontline roles. In February 2022, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) eased two key recruitment criteria for its bus drivers. The minimum height required was lowered from 159cm to 153cm and the experience needed for driving heavy motor vehicle was reduced from 3 years to 1 month. This helped the DTC in recruiting 38 women drivers by April, to join its sole woman driver who was recruited in 2015.  Measures such as this also open up new livelihood opportunities for women. 
  • Foster greater diversity in the workforce to help urban local bodies, public transport authorities and other implementing agencies to become more aware of, and more sensitive to, issues faced by women, girls, and persons of minority genders. A combination of immediate and medium-term strategies can be adopted to enhance diversity across departments and job roles - from entry level through to middle and senior management and top leadership. 
  • Develop strategies to engage with local women-led businesses. For instance, in 2016, the Kochi Metro Rail engaged Kudumbashree, a women's self-help group in Kerala, to manage facilities at metro stations, including ticketing, customer relations, housekeeping, parking, and running the canteens. Today, Kochi metro station employs the largest crew of women in any metro in India. 

The World Bank’s Toolkit on Enabling Gender Responsive Urban Mobility and Public Spaces in India provides additional reference for implementing these recommendations.   It builds a four-pillar framework, beginning with assessing the ground situation, and includes strengthening policies, building capacity and raising awareness, as well as strengthening infrastructure and services.

Establishing gender sensitive policies, planning mechanisms, regulations, and guidelines and then strengthening institutions to implement these policies can help mainstream gender in a city’s governance framework.  Cities can then embark on long-term measures to improve women’s mobility – a critical factor for increasing their participation in the labor force, boosting their education, and improving the mobility of the elderly and differently-abled people.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of blogs about making public transport more women friendly. Links to previous blogs: Blog 1, Blog 2 and Blog 3.


Sarah Natasha

Consultant, Transport, SAR

Gerald Ollivier

Lead Transport Specialist, India

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