Safety in numbers? Free public transportation for women and women’s safety

Project Active from to Cities

Delhi exhibits low female mobility rates, at the same time, public transport is a hostile environment for women due to widespread sexual harassment. About 89% of female university students in Delhi reported experiencing sexual harassment while travelling in the city. To improve mobility and indirectly improve safety, the Delhi government announced a policy to make bus travel free for women in the entire city starting on 29 October 2019. This project studies the impacts of Delhi’s new policy: providing direct evidence on the impact of a citywide, free public transport scheme for women, and indirect evidence on the existing mobility barriers for women such as price, safety, and coordination.

Using other cities as control groups, the project’s main analysis is centred on the impact of the policy on women’s travel behaviour and investigates measures of safety in the short-term. Although it is relatively easy to implement procedures to make public transport free, the consequences remain unclear. For example, it may reduce sexual harassment and increase female ridership, but it may also receive backlash from men and result in increased harassment.

The impact evaluation results are relevant for Delhi policymakers, and other policymakers in other cities with similar settings, who may make adjustments to the policy or establish complementary policies to improve female urban mobility.