Of Buses and Women

Today on the Streetsblog Network we’re hearing from Santa Rosa CityBus, the only blog on the network (so far) that is written by employees of a municipal transit agency. Their latest post laments the lack of positive press for the bus in general:

2851696372_eb48c2aacb.jpgRiders on a Seattle bus in 1952. Photo from the Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr.

How hard can it be to find culturally significant people, or just plain old interesting people, on a bus? Despite all the hot press that heavy rail, high-speed rail, light rail, and subway trains have been getting lately, it is a little-spoken fact that of ALL the transit trips in the United States, bus trips made up 57.5% of the total transit trips taken through the third quarter of 2008. That is 4,699,270,000 (that’s billions) trips by bus between January 2008 and September 2008. 

It’s our sense that bus riders are disproportionately underrepresented in the blogosphere as well, although the post gives a nod to fellow Streetsblog Network members Bus Bench, Boise Bus Blog, and Bus Chick.

Also today, a very thought-provoking entry from Eric Britton at New Mobility ThinkPad. Eric is calling on transpo geeks everywhere to make 2009 the "Year of the Woman in Transportation":

Transportation policy and investments up to now has been shaped almost
exclusively by males — and not just any males but males with jobs, more
or less decent university educations, a full place in the community,
and a generally serene view of the future. And oh yes, to a man, owners
and drivers of cars. (A word of self-disclosure here: I have just
pretty well described myself.)

Head over to his site and take a look at his extensive and well-researched proposal for involving more women in the discussion of transportation policy. It’s an idea that we’ll follow up on in more depth later.

Hey, we just noticed something. Is it just a coincidence that all the bus blogs mentioned above feature at least some female contributors?

What do you think?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Interesting connection.

    I can tell you that the emphasis in the transit industry has been the attraction of “choice riders,” those that choose to use transit and are not stuck with it because they are too old, poor or disabled to ride. And the general impression is that no one would choose to ride a bus that stops and waits every block — one block for the light, the next for a stop.

    The data shows, however, that bus ridership in NY has been a female thing, with women of 1970s vintage unwilling to ride the subway because they were afraid of crime. That’s where the demand from express buses — direct from the predominantly White areas on the fringe of he city to Manhattan — has come from.

    I wonder if the transit gender gap has survived the reduction in crime and increase in ridership? But one thing is for sure, with perpetual incumbency and inbreeding, the political class ideas about transit are locked in place from 30 years ago.

  • Linda Kash

    You speak as though women were a minority. What makes you feel that blogs with female contributors are different or unusual?

  • There are songs about buses. Paul Simon has written some – it’s one of the “50 Ways to Leave your Lover,” and also how Kathy and her friend look for “America.” A bus station is also where Mike Mills of R.E.M. told his girlfriend “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.”

  • I suppose men to tend to have a strange fixation with motors. I tell my wife that I get it all out of my system each morning with the coffee bean grinder.

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Linda,

    Among transportation bloggers that I know of, women are a minority. Specifically, among Streetsblog Network contributors whose sex I know for sure, more than 130 are men and 22 are women (that’s a very rough count, but you get the point).

    By the way, if you know of blogs that aren’t in the network and should be, please let me know. We rely on readers to alert us to new blogs or noteworthy ones that we’ve overlooked. Go to http://usa.streetsblog.org and click on “Nominate a blog” at the top if you’ve got a suggestion.

    There’s nothing unusual about a blog that’s written by a woman. But Eric Britton makes the point in his extensive post that women might very well see transportation issues differently than men. It would be helpful to have more of their perspectives included in the debate.

    And Daniel…whether men have a strange fixation with motors or not, surely transportation policy isn’t all about motors. I’m just saying.

  • As one of that minority of female transportation bloggers, I have to say that my gender is usually not an issue. At all.

    Sometimes, however, gender suddenly becomes a very big deal, such as when I am the only woman in a meeting and am asked to distribute the notes I’m taking; or at transportation conferences where even outspoken women like myself can find it’s an uphill battle to join the conversation.

    As far as what a woman’s different perspective on transportation might be, I would say that any area where expectations and norms differ would be fair game. Clothing, cargo capacity, anything about kids, perceptions of safety (though I hate to admit that one), household economic choices, all could be particular (though hardly exclusive) women’s issues, and they are not all being covered out there in the blogs as much as they could — the emphasis of a lot of transportation research and writing is on the traditional commute, which is of course relevant to women as well, though statistically speaking perhaps a bit more relevant to men.

    Oh and don’t forget la differance! Here’s some coverage we published of a major women’s bicycling issue:

    http://bikeportland.org/2008/06/05/biking-with-the-flow-the-challenges-for-women-during-that-time-of-the-month/

    Thanks for making this connection, Sarah, I’m looking forward to hearing more from other network members about their thoughts…

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