Women pay more: The additional costs faced by female transport users

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Women pay more: The additional costs faced by female transport users Photo © World Bank

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What are the drivers or barriers for women to use public transport and access opportunities and services?  How do women decide to use one mode of transport versus another?

Gender-related data can help answer these questions, and it is becoming more frequently produced and available. What once was hidden or accepted, is now more visible and less tolerable than ever in history. Men find it difficult to really understand the burden women bear in public transport, as they don’t carry it.  Quantifying this burden can improve our understanding, and to do so we came together as economists, social scientist and gender specialists to ask the right questions and build econometric models that are not gender blind, as is often the case.

Women in Quito bear a higher travel cost in public transport.

In 2016 we commissioned the construction of a mode choice model that would help us understand the behavior of users — specifically, which mode of transport they are more likely to choose — by estimating how they value their time. In other words, the model tells you how much a user is willing to pay to reduce the time spent in different moments of the trip (e.g. walking, waiting, in-vehicle), under different scenarios (e.g. type of vehicle, transfers), and considering user’s socioeconomic characteristics, including gender. Adding the results from the model to transport fares, and different travel times, we calculate the Generalize Travel Cost (GTC). The GTC is the sum of the monetary and the non-monetary costs of traveling, users are expected to make the choices that minimize their GTC.

Gender differences are key to the GTC; however, it is often overseen. Women, in general, juggle to combine household and paid work activities during their day, which makes them time-poor.  This time scarcity is intensified by the unreliability of transport services. What is more, women seem to face additional constraints to their mobility, such as safety and security, that might affect how they value time, and therefore, their decisions around traveling.

While the main purpose of the study was not to find travel behavior gender-based differences, the results stood out by themselves. Some conclusions:

  1. Women and men value differently transport modes (Graph 1). The data shows that women will pay significantly less than men to switch to articulated buses from conventional buses. Without further data, we can only speculate about the reason, but articulated buses run in trunk lines, which happen to be more crowded: Data shows that sexual violence is more frequent in crowded vehicles.
  2. Value of time differ by gender only among users without a car (Graph 2). Public transport captive users have different behavior associated to their gender:

      a. Women without a car assigned significantly higher values to their time-use than men. Comparatively, women’s:

  • In-vehicle time is 23% more expensive.
  • Waiting-time is 29% more expensive.
  • Walking to/from station is 42% more expensive.
Articulated vs Conventional Bus World Bank Transport The additional costs faced by female transport users

What does a woman have to do to travel at the same cost as a man? 

Imagine a trip in Quito consisting of 5 minutes waiting for the bus, 60 minutes in-vehicle, and 5 minutes walking to the destination. The out-of-pocket cost of this trip is US$0.25, regardless of gender. However, when we add the non-monetary costs (i.e. value of time), the estimations suggest that women “pay” approximately 25 percent more than men (US$1.19 vs US$0.96). Using the data from the model (which are likely to be a conservative estimate), we calculate examples of what a woman would do to travel at a man’s cost. To avoid paying that extra 25% women would:

  • Travel 14.4 more minutes (74 mins vs 60 mins).
  • Wait 13.3 additional minutes (18 mins vs 5 mins)
  • Walk 19 more minutes (24 mins vs 5 mins).

     Note: This is an unorthodox exercise.

Men and women with no car available.

There are several limitations to this exercise, which invite for further research. However, quantifying helps putting things in perspective, and allow us to predict gender-based behaviors.  Also, there is already information that provides potential explanations for behaviors consistent with those predicted. Studies for the Quito Metro Project have concluded that women face a higher cost of using public transport, and showcase some of their strategies to enhance the sense of safety: 89% avoid dark areas, 87% avoid streets with conglomerations of men; 74% stop daily activities before 6 p.m.

Data to assess gender gaps in mobility is only the starting point. Mainstreaming the quantification of the barriers that hamper women’s access to socioeconomic opportunities in demand modeling is necessary to maximize project related benefits, demand, and foster equal opportunity. Transport should not include tradeoffs between mobility and safety if we really aim for inclusiveness and sustainability.  

The team will now delve into this topic in Lima, by identifying variables that influence women’s transportation demand and quantifying their cost. Your opinion, comments, and references are appreciated.

For more information on methodologies and references, please view related technical note.

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