Gender-equal and sustainable transport in Malmö

The City of Malmö has decided to gender-mainstream the process of developing the city’s system of public transport. In the autumn of 2011, the municipality began the process of integrating gender equality into the broader work to achieve sustainable transportation.

Gender-equal and sustainable transport in Malmö

Automobiles account for a significant proportion of carbon dioxide emissions. In trying to create transportation options that are both gender equal and sustainable, we need other solutions besides giving everyone the opportunity to drive a car. For many traffic planners, the aim is to shift citizens from individual driving to public forms of transportation, as well as walking and cycling. But the planners are also grappling with economic factors and the issue of regional competitiveness, which are both central considerations in the transport question. In recent years, gender equality has emerged as one more factor to take into consideration when crafting transportation policies. The Swedish transportation policy objectives for 2010 call for a transportation system [that] is gender-equal, in other words, meets the needs of both women and men in equal measure.

In 2009–2010, the City of Malmö worked to come up with a new plan for public transport. Like other cities, Malmö’s so-called consensus meetings, where citizens can have their say, had an over-representation of older men. But the city was open to trying out new methods and actively sought out the groups of which it knew the least. The result was a series of “dialogue meetings” arranged with high-school students, commercial employees and representatives of various free-time activities. The city was also interested in consulting with a female-dominated workplace, and chose a hospital for this purpose. For a male-dominated workplace, the city selected a police station.

Special ‘night bus stops’ for improved safety

The female high-school students, hospital workers and police all brought up the issue of safety. The students and hospital workers felt unsafe using public transportation at night, and representatives of the police referenced both their own professional experience and their concern for family members.

Many municipalities have worked with safety issues, taking measures such as removing bushes and shrubbery adjacent to bus stops and eliminating dark tunnels to access the stops. In Kalmar, night-time security has been improved by having night buses drop off passengers in-between regular bus stops (‘nattstopp’ = ‘night stop’), which can be a way for passengers to ensure that they are getting off alone.

Common to focus on men

As part of the project the city arranged a focus group discussion with public officials and politicians, asking them how they viewed the relationship between gender and public transport. It emerged that there was a major focus on men as a group – on the one hand, the “problematic” older men who were the hardest to convince of their driving being a threat to the environment, and on the other hand, the “quality-conscious” men who could be convinced, as long as public transportation was adapted to their needs. It is the latter group to which public transportation should be made attractive.

Ana Gil Sola studies commuting to and from work from a gender and mobility perspective at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg. Zeroing in on men as a potential group for increasing the share of public transportation is something she recognizes.

From an environmental standpoint it may be the right tactic, but not necessarily from a gender equality standpoint. Different types of investments in public transportation favour different groups, for whom routes, ticket prices, reliability, frequency of service and convenience can all have different meanings.

Economic equality the thorniest issue

Today, one of the major factors affecting planning is the process of regional expansion. Regional labour markets are becoming larger as more people are commuting longer distances and across municipal boundaries.

“But it has also been shown that in larger regional labour markets, men’s opportunities for higher wages are increased to a greater extent than they are for women,” says Ana Gil Sola.

The questions of economic equality and the division of unpaid household and care work seem, in particular, to be the ones that Malmö’s city planners have had the hardest time integrating in the course of the process.

“These are more difficult and complex issues than influence or safety. There is a lot of potential here for continued strategic work,” explains Lena Levin, a researcher at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, VTI.

This work is scheduled to launch in the autumn of 2011, and Levin will be one of the participants in the process of developing a new working model for more sustainable transport in Malmö, including the incorporation of gender equality into the planning.

Read the complete article in NIKK Magasin.

More information:

The report, “Gender perspectives on the development of public transport”, by Lena Levin and Charlotta Faith-Ell can be downloaded at

Ana Gil Sola’s Licentiate Thesis Vägen till jobbet - Om kvinnors och mäns arbetsresor i förändring (“The way to work – On women’s and men’s changing patterns of commuting to work”) can be downloaded at