Transit boundaries: race and the paradox of immobility within mobile systems

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - urban, place - north america, policy - equity, land use - transit oriented development, land use - impacts


Chicago, transit, boundaries, race, space, mobility


The central city is once again hot. Many city areas where poor minorities were left behind during the decades-long suburban growth are experiencing a revival. New high-rise condominiums and other developments are drawing tens of thousands back to city spaces that were once considered undesirable. These ‘return to the city’ trends are supported in part by growth machine engines, such as Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and TIF (Tax Increment Financing) districts, often to the detriment of lower-income minority residents, who still find themselves trapped within the boundaries of spatial inequalities in the city. Drawing on six years of ethnographic fieldwork in Chicago, I show how public transportation is used to buttress the city’s growth machine, while simultaneously maintaining the boundaries of spatial and other types of inequalities. In doing so, I highlight how public transit is used to create and support growth along race (and class) lines. Specifically, I show how mobility and growth for Whites and predominantly White spaces in the city are proactively shaped through favorable new public transit development and revitalization initiatives such as TOD and TIF. At the same time, in predominantly Black and Latinx spaces, where intracommunity public transportation usage is high, new transit related development is below sparse or completely lacking, further fortifying transit and other spatial boundaries.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.