Lonely wait at bus stop

Lonely wait at bus stop/Via Flickr user net_efekt (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields)

Are any women readers of this blog night-time transit riders? If you are, I could really use your help in providing advice to people seeking to ride transit at night alone.

I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a long time because it turns out that riding transit at night is complicated. The fear or concern about safely riding public transit at night and intimidates and discourages riders, many of them women.

For me, there are four factors I consider when deciding whether to use transit for late-night travel:

  1. Safety. UCLA professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris recently published a study which found that women were much more scared simply waiting at the bus stop or the transit station than on a transit vehicle itself. I ask myself whether I would feel safe walking to/from or waiting for transit. And if the answer is no, I consider another mode.
  2. Bus frequency. How long might I have to wait for a bus? On many lines in LA, service is sparse after the evening rush hour.
  3. Convenience. After dark, I might only be willing to ride one bus; if I have to make a transfer, I’m more likely to try another mode, such as biking, carpooling, or driving alone.
  4. The built environment. Is the area designed at a pedestrian scale, with accouterments to enhance safety such as good lighting? Or does is it a busy vehicular thoroughfare (where cars rule?) This will be different for each person. For me, the built environment and urban design of the area I am traveling through influences my mode choice, particularly at night when I’m less willing to walk at night through areas without amenities such as good lighting and sidewalks.

Here’s a starting point for dishing out advice for riding transit at night. Please feel free to offer advice (or rebut my ideas) in the comments.

  1. Do your homework and complete your trip planning before you get to your stop. Know when and where to catch your bus.
  2. Have a fully-charged cell phone in case of emergencies.
  3. Take advantage of technology. For example, Metro operates www.rapidbus.net, which is a mobile phone-ready site that provides NextBus bus arrival time data for Metro Rapid buses. My boyfriend reviewed www.rapidbus.net on the LA Subway Blog last year. (Note: It isn’t always reliable. But sometimes, some information is better than no information.)

    Screenshot of Rapid on the Cell site.

    There are also third-party apps which make schedule and route information easily accessible via iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. In a story about third party apps, Fred Camino of The Source recently recommended the Unibus, and iTrans apps for the iPhone.

  4. Have a back-up plan. When I’m alone, I try to carry enough cash for a cab.
  5. Optional: You might consider having someone meet you at the bus stop to walk, sharing a taxi or drive you home. Personally, I think the person who comes to greet you should already be there to pick you up, but that’s just my opinion. (Read my account.)