A New Wave Of Buildings Are Addressing The Different Way Men And Women Experience Living In The City

Urban developments around the world are accounting for commuting concerns among women.

By Jeff Vasishta December 20, 2016

Rush hour on the New York City subway. It’s not for the claustrophobic. Hearing exactly what the person standing next to you has on their smartphone music playlist or being able to smell what they may have had for lunch is enough to make many scramble for their bikes as soon as the weather clears. For many women, though, the close quarters commuting can be a lot more fraught than hearing Abbas’s Greatest Hits at seven in the morning.

With incidents of sexual assault on the rise on the subway, many women are wishing they had the same kind of kind of protection that women-only classes offer them in the gym, from ogling eyes and potential stalkers on the subway. With a commander-in-chief who hasn’t been an advocate of  women’s rights, many wish New York could be in line with the same kind of gender-friendly transportation and real estate planning other cities offer their female population.

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Fast Coexist reports that Toronto, often touted for its progressiveness, has made a “request stop system,” so women can get off buses closer to their homes late at night. Berlin has taken it one step further. It is also trying to break up the division between residential and commercial districts, and between suburb and office. This means more mixed-use neighborhoods, with homes, shops, and workplaces co-mingled—benefiting the overall feel of a neighborhood and making it pedestrian-friendly. It’s an idea that the work/play/live movement in U.S. urban development addresses.

“Residential tenants can work nearby, eliminating their commute; run their errands in the retail plaza; and walk their dogs at the dog park,” said WeWork co-managing partner, Jason Larian to “Our office tenants can relax by taking leisurely walks in nature, enjoy al fresco picnic lunches and visit the gym after work on site.”

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But if the idea of living on a company compound may make you feel like a Stepford Wife—or put you in constant 24/7 with the co-worker you wish you can’t wake to get away from—Austria may offer a viable solution. An extensive survey, conducted nearly 20 years ago, showed how differently women used public transportation compared to men—various childcare activities, like buying groceries, versus commuting to and from work is one example—and so their urban development shifted gears accordingly. Called Frauen-Werk-Stadt, these apartments have safe grassy areas where families can play without traveling far from home. It also has an on-site kindergarten, pharmacy, and doctor’s office, and is close to public transport connections. Of course, there are also opponents to such gender-slanted buildings, arguing that they perpetuate rather than eradicate sexist stereotypes.

To this end, Japan recently announced plans to effectively force men to take more time off when children are born. Parents will only qualify for the full two years of shared leave if the man takes at least three months. In Sweden and Norway, where the scheme was developed in the 1990’s, some 90 percent of men now take parental leave.

Good luck doing that in New York, while keeping a job and affording a place to live. Perhaps, a pregnancy-only commuter carriage would be more realistic.


Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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