India: The gender divide in urban mobility



While cab-hailing services have helped working women, their expansion may increase congestion and pollution

Only around one in five women in the working age takes up paid work in urban India. In China, the number three in five. One key determinant of women’s ability to work, namely, the role of travel mobility — the available modes of transport, time and distance, convenience, and the cost of travelling — remains unexplored in the Indian context.

Women tend to have lower travel accessibility than men for two reasons.

First, married women have less bargaining power in terms of a residential location. Second, men have a far greater access to personal vehicles such as cars and two-wheelers which are faster and more convenient modes of travel. As per the Census 2011, in urban India one in four men travel to workplace either by a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler compared to one in 10 women. There is a clear gender divide in terms of access to personal vehicles which seems to be narrowing only marginally over the years.

Given that women continue to be primarily responsible for household work and childcare, longer commute tends to push even educated women out of work. However, in recent years the spread of convenient tech-enabled cab services such as Uber and Ola have begun to provide an alternative to personal vehicles. Unlike traditional taxis or auto-rickshaws, the new age cabs offer door-to-door service, and are more comfortable. In a recent study more than one-third of women using Uber in India said that it has increased their mobility and 28 per cent said it helps them to reach places not served by public transport and enhances their independence.

Survey findings

Full text at

About the authors: 

Mahambare is Professor – Economics, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, and Dhanaraj is Assistant Professor – Economics, Madras School of Economics.

Published on November 02, 2018


One thought on “India: The gender divide in urban mobility

  1. Hi Eric,

    How to make every day almost a Car Free Day in the City? A behavioral change can reduce the convenience of the personal car while increasing the convenience of multi-passenger shared taxis. This approach uses many carrots and one stick with the following features:

    1. No on-street parking (the stick). This frees up on-street parking for bike lanes.
    2. One-Way streets (optional…decreases the number of left hand turns)
    3. Bicycle lanes interconnected throughout the city on one side of the street, the left side A with an optional thin curb to protect the bicycle lanes.
    4. On the right side B, buses and taxis have loading zones. Side B also allows permitted parking for service and delivery vehicles.
    5. Shared taxi-mandate by cities that ALL taxis accept passengers up to maximum capacity and are constantly dropping off and picking up passengers. Includes ALL “ride-share” and app-based services.
    6. Taxis mainly serve first and last mile and connect to public transit.
    7. Public transit converts to forms of Bus Rapid Transit or Express service.
    8. Fares are served through cards such as the S.F. Bay Area’s Clipper card.
    9. Taxis convert to alternative fuel or electric vehicles and bike carriers.
    10. Some car garages convert to bike garages.
    11. Reduced speeds.
    12. Just transition for all.

    One powerful advantage of taxis is that they don’t need parking, rather they need access to loading (pick=up and drop-off) and storage (with electric charging stations) when not in operation. Shared taxis rely on directionality to enhance their efficiency, that is, they accept passengers if they are going in the same general direction. They are completely flexible and can respond to needs as they arise. Generally, they’re not door- to- door service but drop passengers close enough ( within easy walking distance) to their destinations.
    The supply and demand of shared taxis needs to be carefully calibrated to ensure their reliability and convenience.
    Other important advantages are the facts that conversion to this system is relatively “shovel ready” and capable of providing jobs which are critical for a stable society.
    Imagine if shared taxis could transport 10 times the number of passengers that app-based and traditional taxis currently serve. If the public adapted to this transportation alternative then it would be possible to see a radical reduction in VMT, increase in alternative electric transportation, and increased connectivity.



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