Event Recap: WTS-Boston Women on the Move: Mobility for Women, Mobility for All

WTS-Boston and the APA-MA Transportation Committee co-hosted a panel of experts on sustainability, mobility, and gender with the shared understanding that there are different mobility experiences between genders on November, 3rd 2021. APA Committee Members, Daphne Politis and Whitney Burdge, interviewed Robin Chase (Founder and former CEO of Zipcar), Natalia Barbour (University of Delft and Research Affiliate at MIT), and Maria De la Luz Lobos Martinez (Mobility and Environmental Systems Analyst at LivableStreets Alliance. The speakers explored how the design of transportation systems, networks, and technologies could better reflect the needs of all users.

Robin Chase presented the following questions: What do we build? Who is in the room? What is on the table? What are the stakes? Chase described how the focus on the necessity for peak times mostly works for white men and that any innovation or ADA improvements is a benefit to us all. Chase wrapped up her presentation by saying that we should focus on building the world that we can live in, not just want to live in.

Natalia Barbour’s research suggests that your mobility will depend on who you are and how capable you are, and that there is heterogeneity in mobility. Barbour argued that people’s behavior is a result of their environment and their behavioral propensity. There are certain indicators, for example, that increased a worker’s likelihood of working from home during the pandemic, such as having children, higher college education, and being male. Barbour finds that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for accessing innovations in shared mobility, like bikesharing, ridesharing, or shared automated vehicles, since people’s priorities differ (e.g., women are more likely to prioritize safety). Barbour believes that we must adjust our mindsets about the needs and wants of all users when working toward inclusive programs.

Maria De la Luz Lobos Martinez is an advocate for equity and spoke about the need to include gender when talking about equity in the planning stages of development. Planners should try to get disaggregated data, for example, by seeking individual responses and asking about gender identity (with several different gender identity options). Martinez also offered ways that planners can help make streets more comfortable for women, such as making sure areas are well-lit, wide enough, and have places to sit down. Similar to the other speakers, Martinez emphasized mobility as more than simply commuting from A to B; mobility is the freedom of movement for everyone.

The event concluded with a review of where mobility is already in motion. Specifically, the European Union is leading the charge by prioritizing equity to ensure that women benefit from public investment in transportation in ways that meet their specific needs. This work involves transportation equity techniques, such as gender mainstreaming, gender-sensitive budgeting, and gender impact assessments that are meant to acknowledge and account for gender differences in policies, plans, and programs. With targeted data, we gain a better understanding of how current conditions impact people differently and should use this information to apply solutions that are applicable to all.