The impacts of rail transit on the lives and travel experiences of women in the developing world: Evidence from the Delhi Metro

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, place - urban, mode - subway/metro, mode - mass transit, mode - rail, planning - personal safety/crime, planning - surveys, land use - impacts, ridership - perceptions, ridership - behaviour


Delhi, Developing country, women's travel experience, Urban rail system, Empowerment


In response to the rapid rates of urbanization and motorization, cities in the developing world have increasingly invested in urban rail transit systems in recent decades. Using participant observation and in-depth interviews with 51 female passengers in the Delhi Metro, we provide empirical evidence of the impact of rail transit on women's lives in the developing world, which is lacking in the existing literature. We adopt the notion of empowerment as a theoretical framework. The findings of the study reveal that the Delhi Metro provides a comparatively empowering and positive travel experience for women, which is mainly enabled by safety measures and women's relative sense of safety in transit compared to other public spaces. However, this does not mean that female passengers are free from the threats of harassment in the Metro, and thus they adopt behavioral strategies to avoid risk. These results suggest that implementing policies that address women's safety concerns and needs are key to mass transit's success in the developing world.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.