Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Urban research on stratification in the public terrain has focused on how intentional and unintentional physical arrangements and social conventions limit and enable particular kinds of stratification processes and interactions. This prior research primarily focuses on static places such as plazas, restaurants, sidewalks and train stations and does not give adequate attention to the impact of mobility. As one of the few places where people of different social classes and ethno-racial backgrounds encounter each other, public mobile spaces are sites of the replication of civility and incivility among people of different race, gender, and class positions, and sites of its construction too.

Prior public transportation research mostly focuses on transportation policies and the design and planning of systems and services, yet, surprisingly, far less is understood about how mobile spaces, including buses, commuter rail, and city rail systems, shape face-to-face stratification processes. Little attention is given to the intersection of the physical spaces of buses and trains, social interactions within these spaces, and the landscape along the transit routes. In fact, the role of mobility is meagerly considered, if at all.

This study addresses this gap by examining how race and other inequalities are reproduced and resisted on public transportation systems and through face-to-face interactions and behaviors on these systems. In particular, I show 1) how the materiality of mobile spaces, and their placement in different parts of cities, shapes disparate public transit experiences across different groups; 2) how social interactions and behaviors on these mobile spaces reflect Chicago's racial social histories and structures; and 3) how inequality is resisted through social interactions in mobile spaces. Through this examination, I bring to the fore the intersection of the micro-level consequences of legacies of racism, which includes class implications, and public transportation systems that are imbued with inequalities. Thus although city buses and trains allow people of color and low income people to physically move into and through integrated places, these mobile but confined spaces replicate, and indeed, intensify raced inequalities while also informing certain class and gendered inequalities, effectively keeping people bound physically and socially.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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