Women Accessing Public Transportation (TOPUK) Project
TOPUK is developed to make women’s access to public transportation safe, secure and comfortable. During the city-wide resident surveys and in a December 2021 workshop with local civil society organizations conducted as part of the project, Women’s Inclusion in Public Transportation Planning, partnered by EKA Kainak, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and IstanbulON, attention was drawn to the diversity of problems women tackled in everyday public transportation experiences. These problems varied from streets to public transportation stops, to vehicles, and back to open public spaces. The prevalent social and cultural norms that steer gender roles play role in emerging mobility patterns causing a sexist discourse in transportation. The norms and the resulting discourse in turn cause women to develop certain behavioral patterns such as inability to travel alone, in early or late hours, adjustment of transportation routes and timing, and even withdrawal from travel in some cases. TOPUK proposes a group of participatory methods and spatial interventions to transform women’s public transportation access into a safe, secure and comfortable experience. In this respect, it aims to serve as a flagship for similar practices to be realized in various cities.
The project methodology defines a participatory design and implementation process. Based on a select street and a connecting public transportation stop (e.g. bus stop, metro/subway station) in a mixed land use pattern—involving housing, retail, education, etc.—within Maltepe district borders, it involves a participatory workshop to define site-specific problems and possible solutions, a design marathon in which solutions are adapted to the project site for implementation, and a participatory event named “Your Street,” in which a select design solution will be implemented together with local inhabitants. In addition to women, TOPUK’s target group includes other vulnerable individuals and groups in society, such as children, elderly and the disabled, who tackle similar difficulties in their everyday accessibility to public transportation in Maltepe and Istanbul. Thus, the project conducted in Maltepe is expected to be applied in other districts of Istanbul as well.