Data-Pop Alliance works with WhereIsMyTransport to understand how women use public transport in Mexico City and Lima
Mexico City and Lima are two of Latin America’s most-populous cities. Yet in both cities, there was little data available to analyse mobility with a gender perspective. WhereIsMyTransport worked with think-and-do tank Data-Pop Alliance to overcome this, surveying users of our public transport app Rumbo to produce data on mobility needs, perception of public transport, experience of gender violence, and inequality.
Mexico City is Latin America’s second most-populous city, and the fifth most populous in the world. 68% of the population over the age of six uses public and private transport to travel on weekdays, with just over half of those trips on public transport. 54% of trips are made by women—3.39 million more trips each week (Monday-Friday) than men.
Lima is the sixth most-populous city in Latin America and 30th most populous in the world. Two-thirds of commuters in Peru’s capital rely on public transport, and more than 50% of trips are carried out by women. Yet in both Mexico City and Lima, there was previously little data available to analyse mobility with a gender perspective.
WhereIsMyTransport joined forces with Data-Pop Alliance—a think-and-do tank founded by partners from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, MIT Connection Science, and ODI—to identify the mobility patterns of women aged 18-65 in Mexico City and Lima.
WhereIsMyTransport’s public transport app Rumbo operates in both cities, giving us unrivalled access to a large audience of engaged public transport users, and unique insights into the mobility ecosystem and the passengers who rely on it.
The research was undertaken by women researchers from WhereIsMyTransport’s Latin American team and Data-Pop Alliance, with our respective areas of expertise underpinning this multidisciplinary project.
We reached out to Rumbo users in Mexico City and Lima, surveying more than 300 women in each city and its metropolitan areas. Our questions focused on four thematic areas:
- Daily mobility
- Perception of public transport
- Gender violence in public transport
- Mobility and tackling inequality
“WhereIsMyTransport did an excellent job leading the research and bringing forward a passion for improving the experiences of public transport users.” - Ivette Yáñez, Communications & Project Manager, Data-Pop Alliance
Our survey showed that women travel to study, work, visit relatives, and for entertainment purposes. This is likely why, in both cities, women frequently travel by public transport outside rush hour: 44% in Lima and 53% in Mexico City. However, the number of women using public transport decreases as daylight fades. Only 9% of women in Lima and 12% of women in Mexico City travel after 20:00.
In both cities, car ownership was low. Less than 10% of participants in Lima had their own car, compared to 28% in Mexico City. Commutes by public transport can be lengthy. 60% of participants in Lima shared that it takes between one and three hours to reach their most frequent destination. 72% of the women in Mexico City itself take between 30 and 90 minutes to reach their destinations, and 73% of those who live in the city’s outer areas take between 90 minutes and three hours to reach their most frequent destination.
Perception of public transport
Our survey aimed to establish how satisfied women were with the quality of public transport in their city: efficiency, cost, infrastructure, and security.
In Lima, 42% of our participants shared that they were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the efficiency of public transport. Why? Uncertain operating hours, long waiting times at bus stops, poor security, and a lack of alternatives to reach their destinations on time, and at different times of the day.
Similarly, 44% of participants in Mexico City were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied". Reasons shared included insufficient public transport to meet demand, slow journeys, and long waiting times.
In both Lima and Mexico City, at least 6 out of 10 women shared that they did not feel safe when travelling by public transport in their city.
Gender violence in public transport
Harassment on public transport is one of the most common incursions experienced by women in Mexico City and Lima. Our survey found that most women take extra precautions to avoid certain areas or conditions in order to reach their destinations safely.
50% of women surveyed in Mexico City and 60% in Lima shared that they prefer to travel during the day, or only on streets with good lighting. Participants in both cities shared how they invest in extra data and cell phone battery so they can share their trips with friends and family. Women also spend more money and/or time on public transport, taking longer journeys or journeys with more transfers in order to avoid areas where they feel unsafe. Half of participants in Mexico City and a third in Lima have modified their clothing to avoid harassment in public transport environments.
A lack of safe public transport also limits women’s professional growth and economic independence. In both cities, 6 out of 10 participants stated that they have turned down offers of employment due to transportation difficulties, with concerns shared including unsafe services and needing to walk through city streets at night.
Mobility and tackling inequality
Participants in Mexico City shared that they use public transport to connect with professional opportunities—ones that offer them higher incomes, career growth, and entrepreneurship.
Public transport gives women in Mexico City the opportunity to travel when they want and need, in most cases without the need to travel accompanied. Participants mentioned that public transport allows them to reach more distant places to attend cultural activities. Further, the women surveyed highlighted the value of public transport for helping them reach valued destinations in a more efficient and lower cost manner than a private vehicle would allow.
Participants in Lima saw public transport as their primary option—unsurprising for a city where less than 6% of women own a private vehicle. Women in Lima play an active role in activities outside the home, relying on public transport to reach new destinations and fulfil their work and academic aspirations. Women in Lima also shared that they usually travel by public transport when visiting their friends, allowing them to socialise, get to know new places, and build ties with other people.
Participants in Lima felt that public transport gives them the opportunity to move freely and independently. While most participants shared their experiences of problems with public transport, women in Lima enjoy the ability to get to know their city, and access the opportunities it offers them.
“It wasn’t just mobility expertise that WhereIsMyTransport brought. The hyperlocal perspective of the WhereIsMyTransport research team was really valuable for us. Working together was really easy.” - Yara Antoniassi, Research and Data Analyst, Data-Pop Alliance
This report demonstrates the importance of a gender perspective in the design and operation of public transport. The findings are useful not only for governments, but also for other urban stakeholders, including the private sector. Our findings included how women report issues to the police, or whether they report them. They also included how comfortable women feel using app-based ride-hailing services. WhereIsMyTransport and Data-Pop Alliance see the outcomes of this research as a critical tool for mobility decision-making, contributing to the design of cities and mobility networks that all people can access, where they can travel freely, safely and independently.
About Data-Pop Alliance
Data-Pop Alliance is a non-profit think-and-do-tank created in 2013 by partners from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, MIT Connection Science, and ODI that brings together researchers, practitioners, and activists who want to change the world with data.
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Lima photo courtesy of Alexandra Tran. All other photos by WhereIsMyTransport.