Contested spaces and subjectivities of transit: Political ecology of a bus rapid transit development in Oakland, California

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - bus rapid transit, policy - environment


Environmental subjectivities, Urban political ecology, Transit justice, Bus rapid transit


In this paper we argue that political ecology, a critical subdiscipline of geography, can contribute important insights for transportation geographers and planners. Specifically, political ecology's attendance to environmental subjectivities helps explain why some groups traditionally assumed to be in favor of mass transit resist the projects developed in part to benefit them. Based on qualitative research conducted in Oakland, California between 2011 and 2012, this paper ultimately argues that a political ecology lens helps highlight how environmental and transit subjectivities – identities developed from everyday interactions with mobile and built environments – shape dispositions towards, and the politics around, mass transit projects. This insight is important as it reveals how interactions with the built environment, and the subjectivities these interactions engender, can be overlooked in the context of transportation interventions, especially when these subjectivities are in tension with transit planners' working assumptions and worldviews.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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