The Gender & Space project in partnership with the Central Railways spearheaded a project to improve the lighting at Central Railway suburban railway stations in order to facilitate women’s access to stations and to increase their sense of safety while commuting after dark.
The project completed an extensive study of the lighting conditions of all CR stations from CST to Thane on the Main line and up to Mankhurd on the Harbour Line. Central Railway then began a process of augmenting lighting in line with the recommendations made by the Gender & Space project.
The Gender & Space project believes that urban planning tends to focus on lighting streets rather than sidewalks, thus revealing a bias towards those who traverse the night in cars rather than as pedestrians. This reveals the relative priorities of social planning which privilege cars over people in using streets. This class bias is reflected in the lighting of Mumbai’s streets as well.
Across the world women particularly have pointed to lighting as an important factor promoting a sense of increased safety and therefore access. This insistence on better lighting was also reflected in the interviews and focus group discussions we conducted and in our analysis of questionnaires on safety issues, as part of our research on the Gender & Space Project at PUKAR. This was articulated most often in relation to railway stations, bus-stops and the streets that they had to walk on to get home. Several women recounted alighting at an earlier or later station, which they felt were better lit and therefore safer, when it was late at night.
The Study on Railway Station Lighting
In a study the Gender & Space Project conducted through a questionnaire among 116 women train commuters on the three lines, Western, Central Main and Central Harbour in regard to women’s perception of safety, we found that lighting was among the two factors that most contribute to women’s sense of safety at railway stations. The other factor was familiarity with the railway station. The Gender & Space Project team at PUKAR then decided to conduct a survey of lighting at the railway stations. We felt that lighting at railway stations was a factor that could be easily improved to facilitate women’s access to stations and to increase their sense of safety at the stations after dark.
In the survey conducted between August 2004 and January 2005, stations were assessed for adequacy of lighting in five areas:
(1) entrances & exits,
(2) ticket counter areas,
(3) foot-over-bridges & staircases,
(4) platforms, and
A full report on each station was submitted to the Central Railway authorities.
Our intention was to study lighting not in terms of measurement of lighting levels but through a comprehensive survey based on our own subjective perceptions. Lighting levels were assessed for adequacy both in terms of brightness and the context. That is, corners, staircases and foot-over-bridges, may need more than average lighting as these tend to be perceived as spaces to fear by women.
We also spoke with random women commuters asking them what they felt were the threatening areas at various stations. All stations were not the same but some broad areas of concern emerged. Toilets were often dimly lit or completely dark; the staircases from the foot-over-bridges often had only one tube-light, which was grossly inadequate. Exits were rarely lit at all and any illumination usually came from nearby shops. Unused platforms at slow stations tended to be dark and threatening. We also found that tube-lights tended to provide better light than yellow bulbs.
The Gender & Space Projects
General Illumination Recommendations for All Suburban Stations
• Wherever possible tube-lights should replace existing yellow lights (other than halogens) as these provide better lighting.
• Every entrance and exit should have a light at the edge illuminating the outside area/ road, thus making entry to and exit from the station safer. Special care should be taken to illuminate exits off FOBs as these are particularly threatening zones.
• Foot-Over-Bridges (FOBs) are areas that are often seen to be threatening and these need to be brightly lit.
• Staircases that lead to and from FOBs should have at least three tube lights so that even if one light is not working the staircase is adequately lit.
• On platforms lighting should be augmented under the FOB as this area tends to be in shadow and is often badly illuminated.
• Open platform areas should be lit even when the EMU does not halt there as these areas are seen as potential threats.
• Un-used platforms at a station are supposed to have 30% illumination – we noticed that often illumination is far below this standard. We recommend that care be taken to ensure that this 30% illumination is maintained on all unused platforms.
• Toilets on the station premises urgently require lights both outside and inside. Women often do not use these out of fear.