The government, private sector and citizens seem to agree that the feeling of insecurity is on the rise. The issue is expressed in many ways and one of them is transportation: more than half of the users of the public network in Santiago have not been able to use the system’s buses at least once due to this factor.
This was revealed by the study “Social exclusion and the public transport service in Santiago de Chile”, by academics from the Diego Portales University (UDP) and the University of Cantabria, which also found that the groups most exposed to the disadvantages of transport are older adults, women and young people.
“An inadequate public transport system can increase inequalities and reinforce social exclusion,” says the research.
To arrive at these results, the authors applied a survey to 512 public transport users and identified eight disadvantages that explain the behavior of users: the most important dimension is safety, followed by quality of service, bus stop infrastructure, accessibility, access to information, behavior of drivers, the improvement provided by electric buses and harassment.
Those who have the possibility of using another means of transport -because they can pay a higher rate or have extra time- choose it before the public bus service, since -they argue- the latter does not respond to the needs of passengers, which they choose mainly because it is the cheapest alternative.
Carolina Busco, co-author and academic at the UDP School of Industrial Civil Engineering, explains that “the feeling of insecurity and fear of crime are considered disadvantages of public transport and are among the most important reasons why travelers decide not to use it. ”. She adds that “those who plan public transport must understand that insecurity limits or conditions users’ transport options.”
“The feeling of insecurity and the fear of crime are considered disadvantages of public transport.”
Carolina Busco, Co-author and Academic of the UDP
“Understanding where and how to improve safety to include excluded groups can be a key policy recommendation to encourage bus use.”
Hugo Silva, Academic Institute of Economics UC
The study also points to the need to delve into the disadvantage of transport in research from a gender perspective, since women perceive more insecurity in public transport. This is associated with the fear of being a victim of a crime, leaving the fear of harassment as a different dimension.
The latter reduces access to public buses in the face of crowds of users, at night, crossing urban areas known to be dangerous and being alone. “This translates into longer trips, because women choose longer but safer routes, which results in a time disadvantage,” says the author. She specifies that users “choose more expensive means of travel, experiencing economic disadvantages or even decide to avoid the dangers of harassment by staying at home, which translates into social exclusion.”
Busco affirms that “if we do not offer safe public spaces and means of transport that take into account the distinctive characteristics of female travel, it will be difficult for us to recover the contribution that half of the population makes to the national economy.” She argues that a gender perspective in transportation “would undoubtedly positively affect women’s participation in the labor market.”
Hugo Silva, an academic at the UC Institute of Economics, states that “understanding where and how to improve safety to include these excluded groups can be a key policy recommendation to encourage the use of buses.”
He points out that this is relevant because it can lead to substituting car trips for more sustainable options, such as cycling, walking and public transport, alternatives that he says are necessary “to have a better quality of life in the city, reduce congestion and contribute least to climate change. He adds that a second reason is to be able to provide “adequate conditions, sometimes minimal” to population groups that are normally excluded.
The author adds that although electric buses are well evaluated, “the connectivity benefits they offer are of little use when the people who use them fear that their cell phones will be stolen.” “Charging the cell phone or connecting to Wi-Fi are good services, but they are useless in a context of insecurity,” she argues.