Railway stations, bus and tram stops, their surroundings and accesses, are places that generate anxiety, especially if it is dark, or if the place is deserted.
If technological solutions are often offered: surveillance systems, cameras, nothing is equivalent to a human care of these sites.
Of course, this is not a matter of relieving local authorities or public transport management companies of their role in the development and management of infrastructures, but rather a question of creating porosities, interactions with the public.
These may be actions taking place directly on the site or symbolic actions highlighting women, such as the TICE transport company in Essonne, France, which has introduced the project “the 402 line for women”, making women ambassadors for each of the line’s bus stops. This action has made it possible to promote women from the neighborhoods passed through by this bus line, to regularly listen to them during meetings, while giving them visibility – an exhibition was organized – and the power to act.
Many cities around the world have embarked on this path and some have developed an interesting and involving concept for users called “adopt a station”.
Although in principle these projects are not necessarily based on a gender approach, they are of interest to our topic by establishing a more humane relationship with infrastructures.
In England a project is being developed in several cities by the Community Rail Network. “Station adoption has been one of the many successes of the community rail movement. More than 1,000 adoption groups have been formed nationwide. As well as engaging thousands of people in volunteering, bringing people together and creating pride in station and community, these groups play a critical role in making their stations welcoming, pleasant and attractive places. Often their work extends beyond basic upkeep, incorporating community gardening and food growing, local arts projects, and workshops and visits with children and young people”. “Stations are gateways to our communities,” says a user from London Midland who promotes the “Adopt a Station” project.
Layout, flowering and small stands in stations are all elements put in place by local associations to guarantee a better welcome and a more pleasant experience in stations. Also pointing out the importance of having access to a multiplicity of places with services and non-market activities.
This work also makes it possible to break with the anonymity of stations and restore a sense of security.
In the context of the DIAMOND project, these examples are interesting. They allow us to recognize the need for a constant link with the different publics to better understand their needs and desires and to respond to them in a concerted and participatory manner.
Doing with the public, rather than for the public.
This is one of the reasons why our approach is based on numerous field studies which aim to better know and involve the public users of public transport or shared fleets. These studies will have to continue beyond the end of our project, by equipping transport actors with participative methodologies to encourage constant data feedback, to facilitate the evolution of spaces, and ultimately, better uses that will benefit everyone by restoring a sense of belonging.
Chris Blache, an urban anthropologist, co-fonded Genre et Ville in 2012 – an Urban-Gender Innovation Think and Do Tank – with urban designer and planner Pascale Lapalud. An accomplished business and socio-ethno consultant with proven success and expertise in international market research and business innovation she is actively involved in women and LGBTI rights since 2008. Coordinator of Genre et Ville, she manages the organization and the projects.