Gender-Responsive Public Transportation in the Dammam Metropolitan Region, Saudi Arabia
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The limited availability of public transportation in Saudi Arabia leads to an increased demand for private vehicles. An increase in using private cars does not meet the global sustainability goals, e.g., reducing energy consumption and improving the air quality. Road users should be encouraged to use sustainable mobility modes, particularly public transportation, equally accessible to both men and women However, women's mobility has been somewhat limited and challenged in spatio-temporal terms, and partly due to socio-cultural barriers. This study attempts to understand the gender experience of a sample of public transport users and consider their aspirations and needs into daily mobility. A survey campaign (structured interviews and online questionnaires) was launched in the Dammam Metropolitan Region (DMR), taking four different types of respondents into account. The results suggest a predominant preference for taxis for shopping and leisure activities due to a poor public transport service, pivotally characterized by limited operational routes, hours, and infrastructure. This study ponders upon the adequacy of the supporting infrastructures and interior design of the public buses to women's needs and compare them with global best practices. The results suggest that, due to the absence of a gender-responsive design and infrastructure, women are forced to use taxis, although privacy and a sense of insecurity often become concerns when traveling alone or with children. The study results allow future research to be expanded, considering women's mobility patterns, needs, and embedded barriers by comparing the results with current transport policies, plans, and practices.