To fulfill a reader request, I’m interviewing people and doing research on precautions that women can take to feel safer while riding transit at night. The answers for that aren’t easy, so for the time being, I figured I’d share an old story from my personal blog that conveys how conflicted I am over this topic.

Some background: I live in Santa Monica now, in a transit-rich area, but after finishing my MA and my time in Weyburn Terrace last June, I lived at home with my family for about four months last summer. My folks thought I was a bit of a warrior for using transit to commute to work here at UCLA (it was 90 minutes door-to-door), but my mother was absolutely terrified when I insisted on using transit after sundown in the Valley. Her fear, which was echoed by the findings of Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris’s study on women and how to ease their fear of transportation environments, was of what might happen to me while waiting for the bus.

July 22, 2009
It’s been three weeks since I moved back home and obviously I’m still trying to get the lay of the land.
Tonight’s topic for consideration: What happens when my parents find out that I’m riding transit late at night?
And by late, mind you, we’re talking about 9:30 p.m., which to me, is still really early.
The situation: I have never owned my own car. I never needed to.  And I’ve gotten by these past two years by borrowing Zipcar or Juancar when necessary. So when I agreed to move home, I committed myself to driving alone as little as possible.
There was a screening of Julie and Julia in downtown Burbank this evening. Downtown Burbank is 8.6 miles away and accessible from our house via the 165 Vanowen Street bus. The last Vanowen bus came by at 9:30, which I missed. Another option, the 164 Victory Boulevard bus, was scheduled to arrive at 9:45, but never showed up, which meant I had to wait an hour for the next bus.
My mother also insisted on coming to pick me up from the bus stop. The bus stop was roughly 1 mile away, and a very reasonable distance to travel on the Xootr Scooter.
My mother feared for my safety.
I feared for my safety… while waiting to be picked up.
In the ten minutes it took for her to show up, I got heckled four times and offered a ride by one guy, whom I yelled at for being creepy. (Why on earth did he feel the need to do that? It totally violated my sense of safety. Can someone out there please tell men out there NOT to do that?)
I’m divided on this.
On one hand, I think I would have felt a lot safer had I been able to Xoot home and not stuck out with my running shoes, bike helmet and Xootr at the 7-11 by the bus stop. My mom thinks that someone could have followed me, but my dad knows well that I can beat him home while driving in a car (as I’ve done it twice already.) I also think I would have been a lot safer had they been there to meet me as soon as I arrived…
So right now, I’m thinking about tangible advice, but also the factors that impact a women’s sense of safety en route to and while waiting for transit. It’s the latter that is more complicated to explain, but I hope to have this wrapped up by the end of the week.