GENDER EQUITY IN PUBLIC TRANSIT: Transit systems must adapt to women's needs

February 7, 2022

Transit systems must adapt to women's needs


  • Transit services in 8 major cities across the country do not equitably meet the needs of their service users;
  • Women typically make short trips, outside of peak hours, and often need multiple stops;
  • Research group recommends adapting transit service offers women - one of the largest user groups.


Montréal, Québec, Canada – February 7, 2022: Public transit systems in major Canadian cities would benefit from better responding to women's travel habits, according to a study led by the University of Alberta that included contributions from Polytechnique Montréal and Leading Mobility Consulting.

The study found that women make up the largest group of transit users in the country, but that the current service offer is not always adapted to their needs. In particular, Canadian women tend to travel during off-peak hours, make multiple stops during a trip and travel short distances, often in the service of others. These travel habits are generally less well served by the public transit system in major Canadian cities, according to Geneviève Boisjoly, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal.

"Our transit systems are designed to primarily meet the needs of workers and students who use them during peak hours to get to central destinations," she says. "The problem is, this policy complicates movement for several other user groups, and also leads some of them to take a car instead."

Eighteen networks analyzed

Researchers based their analysis on results from with eighteen established transportation networks in the Canada’s eight largest metropolitan areas, including many in the province of Québec: Montréal, Québec City, Longueuil, Laval, and Ottawa-Gatineau. In addition to identifying the needs of transit users, they identified which transit company policies would benefit from being adopted across the country.

In particular, the group applauds the network restructuring efforts undertaken by several transit and public agencies to improve off-peak service and local connections, thereby better responding to women's travel patterns. One such example is the restructuring presented by the Société de transport de Laval, which is moving from a service that primarily focused on trips to downtown Montréal during rush hour, to a service that prioritizes local trips within the city of Laval.

Each Canadian transit system could improve its service offerings not only to make it easier for women to travel, but also to encourage their use of public transit use. Among other things, the group points out that households with children are 50% less likely to use public transit due to physical constraints on transit systems that make it more difficult for them to travel with children. "By adapting public transit systems to women’s needs, we could increase the proportion of families that would use public transit," says Professor Boisjoly.

Before moving forward, the research group first recommends that each public transit system conduct its own survey of its female clientele to measure how much this group uses their networks, and the barriers they encounter. The group also suggests setting up data collection tools that take into account transit user gender, in addition to increasing the representation of women at all levels of organizations.

"By improving our knowledge of how women get around our cities, transit agencies will be better equipped to make informed policy decisions and distribute services in the best possible way," adds Boisjoly. "In the long run, everyone will benefit from a network that meets the needs of their customers."

This study was co-funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Infrastructure Canada. It can be found here:


Source: Polytechnique Montréal


Notes to editors



Established in 1873, Polytechnique Montréal is one of Canada’s largest engineering education and research universities. It ranks first in Quebec in terms of the scope of its engineering research activities, and is located on the Université de Montréal campus - North America’s largest Francophone university campus. With over 50,000 graduates and over 120 academic programs, Polytechnique has trained 22% of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ)’s current membership. Polytechnique Montréal is also distinguished by its 280 talented professors, 9,000 students, and overall annual budget of $260 million, $100 million of which is reserved exclusively for research activities.



Martin Primeau

Polytechnique Montréal

Media Advisor – Scientific Outreach



Media Relations

Communications advisors from the media relations team plan, organize and oversee the relations between Polytechnique Montréal and the media.

Meet our team