Umeå is pondering how to make public transport more appealing to both genders

Swedish town rethinks its public transport to attract more men

Swedish town rethinks its public transport to attract more men

It’s women who have been doing better when it comes to commuting sustainably, but this also may have to do with how the city has been laid out

The traffic planners of Umeå, a city in the north of Sweden, analyzed the data from their field and realized that there was a gender divide when it comes to commuting to work. Women tended to use the local buses, whereas men preferred taking the car. So, in order to equalize the field and to redress this disbalance in sustainable living, a project was launched.

Called “Innovation for equal and sustainable work commuting”, it has focused on investigating what can make men, who work in the Västerslätt's industrial area of the city, travel more like women and reduce the climate impact of their work commute.

This gender gap has a strong impact on climate

The fact of the matter is - men generally use more cars than women. The difference in transport behaviour is so great that if men travelled like women, the energy use from car trips would be reduced by almost 20 percent!

This is repeated throughout Europe, women travel more sustainably than men. In order to break traditional travel patterns, we want to increase knowledge about how norms and identity affect our choices of travel methods. We need more attractive alternatives such as carpooling, public transport, walking and cycling to choose from,” says Linda Gustafsson, gender equality strategist at Umeå Municipality.

In Umeå, there are good opportunities to commute by bus to female-dominated workplaces such as the hospital, but not so much when it comes to business and industrial districts. Is car dependence in Västerslätt just due to a lack of other means of transport?

In the past 20 years, the industrial area in Västerslätt has increasingly become a commercial area where the target group is mainly men, which also affects customer travel to the area, says Leif Eriksson, entrepreneur and representative of the Entrepreneurs Umeå infrastructure group.

How the industrial area should develop in the future is everyone's responsibility, both the companies and the municipality. There are wishes to increase the number of bus times and adapt them better to work times and to get more bus stops and, not least, it is also about reviewing one's own behaviour. For example, I usually choose my own car before travelling by public transport, I need to change that,” admits Mr Eriksson himself.

This brings up the idea that although cities may have been initially planned more to fit men’s needs and perspectives, it is public transport that favours women.

Umeå Municipality's goal is that the sustainable modes of transport walking, cycling and public transport should together make up 65 percent of trips within the conurbation by the year 2025.



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