Women-Only Ride-Hailing: A Safety Solution?

In Mexico, one popular app illustrates the feasibility and efficacy of women-only transportation models.
January 2, 2018, 5am PST | Elana Eden
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In recent years, a variety of strategies have been proposed to improve women's safety during travel: Women-only buses and metro cars. Women-only taxis. A panic button in ride-hailing cars. And finally: the women-only ride-hailing app. In CityLab, Maya Kroth profiles the rise of Laúdrive, a women-only ride-hailing app in Mexico that skyrocketed in popularity after the murder of a woman by her ride-hailing driver this year.

Women-only apps have struggled to break into the duopolized ride-hailing market, faced with the same policy challenges plaguing dominant companies on top of the perils typical to any specialized startup. The model has appeared, and then declined, in several countries; in the U.S., it could be considered gender-based discrimination. In fact, researcher Alex Rosenblat tells CityLab that the subset's very existence is an indictment of the industry as a whole.

Rosenblat says the demand for women-only services points to a flaw in the current ride-hailing model, which relies on a user-ratings system to foster trust between strangers.

“Customers are expected to perform this task of flagging errant behavior,” she says. “Neither drivers nor passengers are paid for that kind of work, but the success of safety at scale implies the free labor that people are willing to perform. It’s clear that ratings don’t solve everything.”

And while strategies that isolate women can materially improve safety outcomes on a trip-by-trip basis, they don't address the larger question of women's ability to move and exist freely in the public realm. Mexico is beginning to devote attention to this issue, Kroth reports, but it remains a defining characteristic of cities around the world.

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Published on Thursday, December 21, 2017 in CityLab
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