Power and public transportation

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Power and public transportation a political deconstruction of urban mass transit
Uddin, Adam Sultan Ali
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x, 89 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Local transit -- Political aspects ( lcsh )
Transportation and state ( lcsh )
Local transit -- Political aspects ( fast )
Transportation and state ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 85-89).
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Adam Sultan Ali Uddin.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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747548180 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L64 2011m U32 ( lcc )

Full Text
Adam Sultan Ali Uddin
B.S. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2008
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science

2011 by Adam Sultan Ali Uddin
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Adam Sultan Ali Uddin
has been approved
Lucy McGuffey
fifty ^ j \\
Glenn Morris

Uddin, Adam Sultan Ali (M.A., Political Science)
Power and Public Transportation:
A Political Deconstruction of Urban Mass Transit
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Anthony Robinson
Politically innocuous to some the site of U.S. urban mass transit is abundant with
interpretative value. Throughout history, public transportation has served as a cite of
social resistance for many, like Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders, while also
simultaneously acting as a site in which the state exhibits social control and coercive
power, for example through rapidly multiplying surveillance systems and other social
control mechanisms on public transportation. Since antiquity, there has been a division
between those with power and those without powera hierarchical class system present
throughout history that is made manifest and becomes the subject of contention in
something so basic as the act of riding a public bus. Dividing the history of modern
public transit into two periods (the 1955-2000 culture wars, and the 2001- present day
post-9/11 period) this paper will provide a review of the theoretical implications of how
everyday riders have experienced American mass transit over the last sixty years. Using
a wide range of scholars my theoretical review will help inform the findings I will present
from a ground-level survey of Denver-area mass transit riders that I conducted in 2010-
2011, gathering data from several hundred riders of urban mass transit lines. This public
transit study is very important to the future of America and how persons choose and or
are allowed to live their lives in public. For example, it is impossible to avoid the view of
the state while riding public transit as security cameras and armed security guards are
everywhere. Security sweeps of light rail trains, undercover police checking fare,
suspended riders lists, and internal transit spying programs, are all features of the modem
transit security state intended on subjugating the public. Drawing on such trends, this
thesis will argue that although de jure race-based discrimination on public transportation
was made illegal in America 50 years ago, both class- and race-based discrimination is
still alive and well, de facto, on mass transit systems, and is readily being employed by
mass transit security enforcement officials nationwide.

This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
I recommend its publication.
Anthony Robinson

This thesis is dedicated to the memory of the late Dr. Manley Elliot Banks, the reason I
study Political Science today, and the memory of Oscar Grant whose tragic death
continues to motivate my studies.

1. Introduction.............................................................1
1.1 Methodology..............................................................8
1.2 Outline of Chapters.....................................................10
2. Deep Critical Theory Review.............................................13
3. Literature Review.......................................................23
3.1 Transit Crime...........................................................26
3.2 Reverse White Flight The return to the city and the introduction of broken
windows policing..........................................................31
3.3 Contending Views........................................................39
4. Historical Context......................................................47
4.1 Case study of Denver Colorados Regional Transportation District........52
4.2. The political deconstruction of RTD as a state apparatus...............54
4.2.1 Security..............................................................55
4.2.2 RTD, Quality of Life and zero tolerance policing......................60

4.2.3 The bio-political and militaristic functions of RTD...................63
4.2.4 The social environment present on RTD.................................68
4.2.5 Police profiling and RTD..............................................70
4.2.6 RTD transit survey of perceptions and experience with RTD security....74
4.2.7 Presentation of survey data and analysis..............................76
4.2.8 Survey and case study conclusion......................................80


Table 4.1..............................................................77
Table 4.2..............................................................78
Table 4.3..............................................................78
Table 4.4..............................................................79
Table 4.5..............................................................80

The citys built environment becomes a text; through which social rules and
power relations become legible.... [Urban] space reflects the ideology
underpinning the production of urban landscapes renders it visible and makes it
Doris Summer
Analogous to learning a new language, the ability to read the city as a text serves
to broaden the ways in which people interpret and experience the world around
them. Once versed in the dominant political ideologies of the time, and how they
are encoded into the physical spaces around us, one can begin to see and read
ideology into every aspect of everyday livingeven, for example, something as
mundane as a citys public transportation system. Like the circulatory system
facilitating the functioning of the human body, public transit is essential to the
foundation of any city. Politically innocuous to some, others like Nicole Fleetwood
argue that public transit has a rich history of being a site for marginalized groups
in the United States (Fleetwood, 2004, 35), making the spaces of public
transportation ripe for political interpretations.
Throughout history, public transportation has served as a cite of social
resistance for many, like Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders, while also
1 Secretary at the Montgomery, Alabama NAACP during the Jim Crow era, Parks is credited with
being the impetus for the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, essentially launching the Civil Rights
2 A group of black and white civil rights activists and students, mainly from the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), that rode Greyhound buses across the American South during
the 1960s and engaged in simple acts of racial integration such as drinking from the same fountains

simultaneously acting as a site in which the state exhibits social control and
coercive power, for example through rapidly multiplying surveillance systems and
other social control mechanisms on public transportation. Since antiquity, there
has been a division between those with power and those without powera
hierarchical class system present throughout history that is made manifest and
becomes the subject of contention in something so basic as the act of riding a
public bus.
This thesis will argue that class/racial tensions and struggles inherent in
America provide the impetus for perpetual conflict that can be read through a
historical analysis of political and power dynamics made manifest on American
modem urban public transit.
Dividing the history of modem public transit into two periods (the 1955-2000
culture wars, and the 2001- present day post-9/11 period) this paper will provide a
review of the theoretical implications of how everyday riders have experienced
American mass transit over the last sixty years. My theoretical review will help
inform the findings I will present from a ground-level survey of Denver-area mass
transit riders that I conducted in 2010-2011, gathering data from several hundred
riders of urban mass transit lines.
or sitting together in bus seats in an effort to bolster support for desegregating public busses in the

This public transit study is very important to the future of America and
how persons choose and or are allowed to live their lives in public. For example, it
is impossible to avoid the view of the state while riding public transit as security
cameras and armed security guards are everywhere. Security sweeps of light rail
trains, undercover police checking fare, suspended riders lists, and internal transit
spying programs, are all features of the modem transit security state intended on
subjugation. Further, since 9/11 with increased federal funding and fear levels, law
enforcement nationwide has been literally militarizing transit locations through an
increased presence of armed, vested, and trained officers to deter potential threats.
In an attempt to understand some of the reasoning behind modem transit
militarization, this thesis will examine a broad range of relevant theory.
Utilizing the theory of French philosopher Michel Foucault, I will trace the
historical development of state authority and institutional control as it relates to
mass urban transit. Particularly, Foucaults later works on biopolitics3 (1978)
prove useful to understanding the contemporary nature of security and disciplinary
power being employed in urban mass transit systems.
While Foucault is deeply concerned with the expansion of state and other
forms of power represented by his biopolitics concept, many conservative urban
3Biopolotics are a field of study coined by Foucault examining the government style of applying
political power to all aspects of human life in non manifest ways, resulting in obedient citizens self
regulating their behavior to benefit the state, as opposed to using means of coercive power, i.e.
through the military and schools.

scholars celebrate the expansion of social control mechanisms in the city as the
necessary antidote to the revolutionary anger and counter-cultural unrest that they
argue destroyed healthy cities in the 1960s and 1970s. Demonstrating a concern
with the unruly street life of the 60s and 70s, for example, and advocating a
reclamation of the city for a more affluent class, Fred Siegel attributes the decline
of civility and morality in the city to the decline of progressive-era institutions like
strict policing of public disorder, and advances a belief in the virtues of
assimilation to middle-class standards (1997,1-15). Siegel, part of a coterie of
scholars in the broken windows 4 tradition (dating back to Wilson and Herring,
1982) argues that relentless surveillance and control of public life are necessary in
cities. Interestingly, broken windows theory built much of its early analysis as a
response to the perceived decline public order on public transit lines. Advocating a
higher priority for the transportation needs of those adhering to traditional norms
of public civility and those with higher incomes, broken windows scholarship
connects perfectly with the recent return to the city movement5 and the associated
rise of the creative class,6 (essentially, affluent and educated professionals) that
4 A law enforcement practice preaching vigorous enforcement of even the most trifling municipal
codes in the theory that preventing such small-scale disorder will prevent wider acts of violence
(Parenti, 1999, pg. 70).
5 A movement of affluent suburbanites back to the city associated with widespread gentrification
of impoverished communities and associated racial transformation (as urban neighborhoods
become increasingly wealthy and white).
6 A term coined by Economist Richard Florida to describe a new class of economic elite whose
members engage in work whose function is to "create meaningful new forms The super- creative
core of this new class includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists,

has evoked a growing obsession with implementing broken windows theory and
zero tolerance policing in the city in order to stabilize and protect the urban public
spaces where the creative class and others with disposable income are increasingly
Critiquing the social policies of the economic and political elite, Neil Smith
(1999) takes issues with zero tolerance policing and other similar laws that
disproportionately cater to the rich while marginalizing the poor. Using the term
revanchism, Smith sees the negative consequences of these policies on the poor as
intentional. Revanchism, coined by geographer Neil Smith, represents a
reaction against the basic assumption of liberal urban policy, namely that
government bears some responsibility for ensuring a decent minimum level of
daily life for everyone (Smith, 1999). Similarly, scholar Mike Davis credits the
return to the city of the affluent classes as an outright assault on democracy:
The universal consequence of the crusade to secure the city is the destruction of
any truly democratic urban space (Davis, 1990). In City Of Quartz, Davis
meticulously documents the process he calls the militarization of public space as
well as the growing obsessions among the affluent with security.
This thesis will apply themes such as Smiths revanchism and Daviss
theory of the militarization of public space and demonstrate how such revanchist
artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the "thought leadership" of modern
society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other
opinion-makers (2002, pgl-5).

militarization can be seen throughout the history of mass transit. Though there has
been a long pattern of such militarization, I will also explore ways in which the
level of mass transit militarization is being taken to new extremes in the current
era. Considering wider trends in increased militarization across society, this
pattern should not be surprising. Moreover while this thesis argues that political-
cultural logic is the main reason why transit systems are being militarized the way
they are, it is also relevant to note that the mass policing of public transit also is
connected to a broader financial logic of profit through incarceration, a logic
embedded in the vast and growing prison industrial complex. Christian Parentis
Lockdown America, demonstrates how the rise of Neoliberalism since the election
of Ronald Reagan has instigated a concerted effort to profit from incarceration,
which he calls carceral Keynesianism. The result has been massive incarceration
of the poor7 in a new prison economy. This paper will reveal how mass transit
plays a role in the national system of carceral Keynesianism, as mass transit lines
are usually the first target of cities newly implemented zero tolerance policing
laws, and may very well be the site where many urban youth begin their first
encounters with state authoritiesencounters that in many cases ultimately end
with lengthy sentences in state penitentiaries.
As an example of how mass transit systems are an increasingly well-
integrated component of the carceral state (most broadly) and urban social control
7 Of which persons are disproportionately persons of color.

systems (more specifically), this paper will explore the modern surveillance state
and the increasing trend towards video and audio monitoring of citizens in public
places such as transit linesa trend perfectly matching Foucaults biopolitics.
Scholars Derrick Jensen and George Draffan (2004), in Welcome to the Machine,
argue that public normalization of the surveillance state thorough socialization and
fear in effect offers up humanity to be under absolute control by either state or
corporate interests. Though such arguments can seem sometimes seem overly
dramatic, it is important to truly grapple with the political and social control
implications of mass transit systems increasingly boasting video cameras on every
bus, expansion of armed security agents on the busses, organized campaigns to
mobilize bus riders as amateur deputies on the lookout for questionable activities,
the growth of new methods such as retina scans and the like worldwide to
control access to mass transit, and sophisticated command and control surveillance
centers to manage it all.
Drawing on such trends, this thesis will argue that although de jure race-
based discrimination on public transportation was made illegal in America 50
years ago, both class- and race-based discrimination is still alive and well, de
facto, on mass transit systems, and is readily being employed by mass transit
security enforcement officials nationwide. Any class based discrimination of
course has racial implications, and vice versa (considering the intersection of race
and class in America), and both fold into a related project of the militarization of

societya securitization project that finds the front-line battles between security
and freedom, control and autonomy, creativity and
uniformity, often to be fought on the busses, trains and subways we ride every day.
1.1 Methodology
I am convinced that the actual evolution of research ideas does not take place in
accord with the formal statements we read on research methods. The ideas grow
up in part out of our immersion in the data and out of the whole process of living.
William Foote Whyte, Street Comer Society (1943, 1993)
Waiting for the bus before for the first night of my UC Denver 2010 Urban
Politics seminar, my friend and I were approached by an African American couple
panhandling for change. Since I had some change, as did my friend, we gladly
engaged the couple in conversation and handed over what little money we could
afford to give them. Moments later an armed security officer appeared, and in a
rather rude manner proceeded to move along this couple, stating he had the
authority to summon the police. Dumbfounded and appalled at the entanglement
between the armed security officer and the seemingly harmless couple, I was thrust
on my academic journey to begin to research and truly understand the political
implications of public transportation.
The scholars presented earlier in this thesis helped me to understand how
trends in mass transit policing nationwide paralleled deeper developments in the

American political economy (and the broader history of American mass transit),
and reflected some of the deep theorizing of people like Michel Foucault and Neil
Smithbut I remained deeply intrigued by the day-to-day life on mass transit as
experienced by riders in my own home communityDenver, Colorado. So I
resolved to supplement the theoretical scholarship with what I could learn about
Denvers mass transit experiences, based on a case study I have crafted on Denver,
Colorados mass transit system-the Regional Transportation District (RTD). This
case study combines my experiences and observations as a rider on the RTD
system over the past one year with in-person and phone interviews conducted with
RTDs security division and with analysis of several primarily documents acquired
through use of the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). The case study also uses
a survey I administered to 4008 RTD riders (regarding their experiences with RTD
security processes) at locations throughout the city and in surrounding counties. In
an effort to get a random sample, surveys were conducted at 12 transit stops
throughout the city, with heavier polling done at transfer stations. From Denvers
low income Five Points to the affluent area by the University of Denver, this
survey was designed to reach person of all economic class backgrounds.
Regarding demographics like age, race, gender, and overall appearance of the
subjects, this survey was administered to a wide range of riders and reached a good
8Four hundred is a large enough number of respondents, assuming random sampling methods, to
achieve a 95% confidence level.

cross section of the racial and cultural cross cutting cleavages in the Denver metro
area. Choosing to survey in daylight hours only, most surveys were administered
at peak transit hours predominately before work at 8am and after work at 5 pm,
although a few lunch time surveys were administered as well.
1.2 Outline of Chapters
In Chapter Two I will give a detailed account of the evolution of the
discourse on power specifically relating to methods of population subjugation and
social control. This thesis will engage much of the scholarship of Michel Foucault,
such as: The Birth Of Biopolotics (2004), Power and Knowledge (1972), and The
History Of Sexuality (1978). These works grant useful insight in to the historical
processes of change in both disciplinary and regulatory power relations. The
Foucaultian school of thought is particularly relevant to the study of often subtle
mass transit power politics (built on such devices as omnipresent security cameras
and poster reminders to watch other riders for odd behavior) because it is a new
school of thought that is grounded in research conducted in the last half of the 20th
century, providing a conception of power that breaks with the old school notion
of analyzing discemable forms of coercive power, and frames the world in
relation to technological advancements that continue to aid and further develop the
states repertoire of more subtle techniques for controlling populations. In

exploring these themes, this chapter aims at providing a theoretical foundation to
understand the arguments and analysis later presented in Chapter Five.
Moving from the deep continental philosophy of chapter two, chapter three
will provide a literature review of the current urban politics scholarship on
securing the city and urban mass transit. Drawing from James Q. Wilson and
George Kellings seminal 1982 article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled Broken
Windows, this first part of this chapter will show how policing of the city has
changed over the past two decades, documenting the earliest implementations of
zero tolerance and quality of life policing. Explicitly addressing crime and mass
transit, this chapter speaks to the particular circumstances facing mass transit
security teams in the modem era and how they choose to respond. Further, this
chapter the ramifications of the policing practices discussed in the previous
section. Drawing on the works of Neil Smith, Mike Davis, Christian Parenti, and
Nicole Fleetwood, this chapter will present arguments showing how gentrification,
racial profiling, economic discrimination, and militarization of public space all
come together in informing the recent rise of zero tolerance and quality of life
policing. As well, this chapter will analyze how the privatization of mass transit
security teams are contributing to a blurring of the line between public and private.
Chapter Four will apply the major theories addressed in this thesis to the
history of modem public transit, culminating with a case study of Denver,
Colorados public transit system, RTD.

Chapter Five will conclude this analysis of public transit showing how
everyday actions on mass transit can function as acts of political resistance.
Finally, I will elaborate on how this thesis contributes to holding government
accountable to the people, partly by detailing how the militarization of urban mass
transit ironically creates a simultaneous space of resistance that may point to a
different future.

2 Deep Critical Theory Review
Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and
constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of
victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a
picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face ...forever."
George Orwell, 1984
In the current era, the predictions made by Orwell seem to be seeping from
nearly every public space in the city. Closed circuit television (CCTV), audio
recording devices, and an abundance of armed public and private law enforcement
officials, stand as a constant reminder that big brother is always armed and
What is new about modem private security is its pervasiveness and
the extent to which its activities have expanded into public, rather
than purely private, places. In urban environments at least, private
security is now ubiquitous and is likely to be encountered by city
dwellers at home (especially if they live in an apartment building or
on a condominium estate), at work, when shopping or banking,
when using public transportation, or when going to a sports
stadium, university, or hospital (Shearing and Stenning, 1983).
According to Business Wire magazine Commercial sales of CCTV camera
surveillance equipment in 1995 reached record levels, with a leading CCTV
manufacturer reported net earnings of $120 million in 1995, compared with net
earnings of $1.6 million the previous year (Nieto, 1997). For citizens blissfully
ignorant of the American police/security state, there are literally signs everywhere
reminding persons they are currently under CCTV; color coded charts depicting

how safe the Department of Homeland Security currently deems the country, and
omnipresent posters featuring the gaze of an armed security guard close enough to
shoot you.
Additional evidence that much of Orwells vision is coming to fruition is
found in policies of Americas Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Utilizing the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS), the
TSA has been screening passengers well before 911, starting the process in 1998
(Jensen, 2004). The United States population, engulfed with paranoia9 after the
terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, voiced few concerns when congress acted
to beef up TSA security by allowing them to hire the military contractor
Lockheed Martin (in an open-ended contract, of course) to build CAPPS-2,
(Jensen, 2004), a system capable of running a background check on any booked
passenger before they even step foot in an airport. The TSA wont reveal exactly
what parts of your life will be investigated, but your name, address, birth date, and
phone number will be checked against your credit reports, banking records, and
criminal records10 ( Jensen, 2004). Already thoroughly acquainted with a
9 As things turned out, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, only encouraged our loss of
focus, diverting enormous energy, money, and attention to the war against al-Qaeda and installing
security equipment in every airport, train station, and federal building, as opposed to rebuilding our
air travel, railroad, and government infrastructure (Friedman 2008, pg. 35).
10 Plans are already in place to extend these data surveillance regimes to other forms of domestic
travel, such as trains, buses, and even drivers licenses (Jensen,).

persons on paper identity," passengers relationships with TSA grow far more
intimate after baggage check, especially with the enhanced full body scans and pat
downs recently enacted by TSA which actually inspired a bit of rebellion from
some of the public.
Fearing the TSA may violate personal privacy boundaries with their new
full body scans,11 12 31-year old John Tyner of San Diego refused the scans, opting
for a traditional pat down. Capturing the encounter on his phone and posting it to
his blog, Tyner achieved internet stardom with his infamous line delivered to the
TSA agent performing their job, if you touch my junk, I will have you arrested.13
Currently facing a civil penalty of $ 11,000 for refusing to submit to a groin
check in lieu of a full body scan, TSAs San Diego security director told Fox 5
News: What hes done, hes violated federal law and federal regulations which
states once you enter and start the process you have to complete it.14
Such Orwellian developments are given careful scholarly attention in the
wide-ranging field of critical theory which lays claim to some of the most
influential philosophers of the 20th century, and whose sociopolitical critiques
increasingly appear relevant to the current era of globalization and security
obsession. In this tradition, French philosopher Michel Foucault is famous for his
11 Your financials, former residences and other quantitative measures of your identity, as opposed
to the plethora of qualitative measures like your smile, laugh, or world view.
12 A passenger screening device capable of nondescriptly showing what is underneath and inside a
persons clothing, as to better find concealed weapons, drugs, or other contraband.
14 http://www.wired.eom/threatlevel/2010/l 1/tsa-investigating-passenger/

ability to nimbly deconstruct seemingly harmless aspects of society (such as mass
transit systems) to show how they are indicative of the way power is dispersed.
Power is, according to Foucault, visible and functioning at the micro level all the
time (Oliver 2010, 43). Demonstrating this phenomenon with books like: The
History of Sexuality,15 16 The Birth of Biopolitics,16 and Discipline and Punish, his
writings enable everyone to be able to understand the mechanisms by which
economic, political and social power are distributed in society (Oliver 2010, 26).
Perhaps most relevant to the study of urban transit, Foucaults Discipline and
Punish provides an in-depth analysis of different judicial punishment attributed to
different historical periods. Starting in the 18th century, he writes of how state
punishment was extremely physical if not torturous, was episodic and irregular
15 In this book, Foucault explores sexuality in the western world, exposing the hypocrisy of
Victorian sexuality as hyper sexual as opposed to sexually conservative, further showing how
sexual repression aids in subjugating members of society deemed deviant. Of particular relevance
to my research, part five of this book (Right of Death and Power over Life) explores the numerous
and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of populations,
signaling for many scholars the birth of Foucaults theory of bio-power. Discussing how power is
exerted upon the body, Foucault points out how sexuality is just one of the many ways the state
attempts to control populations.
16Taken from lectures given in the late 70s this book provides the context and foundation for
Foucaults later groundbreaking theory known as bio-power. A detailed account of the
development of neoliberalism in both Germany and America, Foucault accounts for the changing
nature of state power and bureaucracy. Particularly interesting, the later chapters of this book
document how economic analysis has worked its way in to every facet of American society given
the state unprecedented and unparalleled power. Specifically demonstrating how neoliberal
economic polices are becoming all encompassing, Foucault cites the theory of human capital, as
evidence of market forces encroaching on areas of life not commonly considered economic.
Neoliberal polices thus have found a way to exploit not only the land but the persons who work it
as well. Ending just shy of formally introducing bio-power, this book provides evidence supporting
the conclusion that implementation of power has evolved beyond state sovereignty and is now
being exerted on every aspect of life.

(applied only to selected criminals), and was carried out in public. Moving from
this era to the birth of the modern prison, Foucault explores the rise of the modem
surveillance state, and related mechanisms used to render prisoners entirely
helpless. Further, the book shows how many elements of the contemporary prison
system, from the rigid hierarchy to extreme socialization and constant surveillance,
also show up in areas not meant for criminals, like public schools, the military, and
hospital care.
Through such works, Foucault left behind a trademark academic approach
to analyzing the historical conditions of our time:
The work of an intellectual is not to mould the political will of others; it
is, through the analyses that he does in his own field, to re-examine
evidence and assumptions, to shake up habitual ways of working and
thinking, to dissipate conventional familiarities, to re-evaluate rules and
institutions and to participate in the formation of a political will
Accordingly, it is in the Foucaultian tradition, that this thesis approaches the
analysis of the political and power dynamics of American urban public transit. A
transportation hub especially relied upon by persons without a car and/or state
sanctioned driving credentials (i.e., immigrants, teens, persons recently
incarcerated, the elderly, the disabled, the addicted, non-driving environmentalists,
and tourists), urban mass transit is arguably the most genuine site that one can find
in the city where wildly diverse populations come together in such close intimacy.
As pointed out by Nicole Fleetwood:

Passengers on busses (and to a lesser extent commuter trains) have few
options for locating their bodies and belongings. The narrow isle allows for
little variation in the expected pattern: unidirectional movement from the
driver toward the rear. But even as it is a tightly enclosed space the
constant motion thorough the city streets gives transit a fluidity and
openness that are at odds whit its structure The routine and monotony of
public transit also make it an ideal location to observe how institutional
systems are contested on a daily basis. Continuous change and movement
through the various neighborhoods of the urban landscape make this
seemingly rigid space very dynamic (Fleetwood 2004, 27).
Further, and as if out of the Orwell/Foucault Guide to the Future, the covert signs
of Big Brother are literally everywhere, if you know what to look for:
Even though the bus driver may often be the only representative
of state authority in this space, power and institutional control are
asserted and experienced even without the visible signs of
authority. As Foucault asserts, a part of the problem of
institutions is the government of oneself, that ritualization of the
problem of personal conduct (1991:87) (Fleetwood, 2004)
Transit riders may not see the visual manifestation of state authority represented
by armed and uniformed private security guards patrolling the bus and light rail
platforms, but the warning and indications of state control are plastered on
billboards, warning stickers, and courtesy sings everywhere. Primarily concerned
with regulating personal conduct and human behavior, the rules on public
transportation are narrowly focused: no eating, drinking, smoking, cursing,
listening to loud music, or talking too loud.17 Other signs are eerily reminiscent of
the Stasi of the former German Democratic Republic, encouraging everyone to
report suspicious behavior to authorities, actions ranging from unattended
17 Information found via primary documents retrieved form RTD.

baggage to excessive sweating18, consistently urging riders to be fearful and alert.
Writing extensively on the subject of increased citizen surveillance and
Foucault anticipated many of the features of contemporary society,
which we have come to, if not accept, at least recognize as an almost
inevitable component of modem life. He pointed to the growth of
modern institutions in this postmodern age, and the depersonalizing
nature of much of their activities. The latter included, in particular,
the focus upon observation of individuals, so that each of us is never
certain whether or not we are being watched by the authorities
(Oliver, 2010).
Taken for granted as a benevolent function of the state, many citizens remain
unaware of the striking similarity between the socialization and surveillance of
mass transit riders with that of prisoners, exploited workers, school children and
the military. The omnipresent socialization/surveillance systems of the public bus
have significant similarities to the classic Panopticon prison design theories of
Jeremy Bentham. Foucault, in Discipline and Punish, commented upon the work
of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) who, in the late eighteenth century, designed a
type of prison that reflected the prevailing ideology of scientific, structured
observation ( Oliver, 2010, 55). Architecturally planned to maximize the
efficiency of guards monitoring prisoners, Benthams perfect prison, known as the
Panopticon, laid down the principle that power should be visible and
unverifiable (Foucault 1975, pg 201). The Panopticon, designed with prisoner

cells arranged in a circular pattern around a large tower with opaque windows,
values ambiguity, as prisoners never know for sure if they are being watched and if
so by how many guards, and are always under the constant awe of the ambient
power of the tower:
Hence the major effects of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state
of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic
functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is
permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the
perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary;
that is architectural apparatus should be a machine for the creating and
sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in
short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which
they are themselves the bearers (Foucault 1975, pg 201).
The experience of being on U.S. public transportation in many ways mirror the
conscious and permanent surveillance of the Panopticon: riders not only know
they are under surveillance, but many times have willingly authorized increases in
security and surveillance measures in the name of fighting terrorism.19 Lester Hoel
details the overall increase in security on mass transit systems, especially at major
Transit security measures for rapid transits systems have been directed
primarily at station areas, because these are the locations of highest crime
occurrence and greatest passenger vulnerability. The principle objective of
station-related security countermeasures is that passengers be visible to
transit personnel police and other passengers so that criminal acts are
prevented or help is summoned quickly and so that passengers have the
19 Most major urban mass transit systems are under the authority of a democratically elected governing board that brings all
major funding decisions before a public vote. After 9/11 and especially after the Madrid train bombings, regional transit
authorities have seen increased citizen support for homeland security and emergency preparedness.

perception of a safe environment. Accordingly, architectural design of
transit stations areas should include consideration of the following features:
Clear lines of sight unobscured by columns and concessions. Ticket
collection booth centrally located for greatest visibility. Straight
corridors and passageways, with ample width and good lighting
Closed-circuit TV monitors on platform areas and other hidden
High levels of illumination
Minimum number of exit and entry points
Locked and supervised toilet facilities
The aforementioned security measures, now prolific among transit authorities
nationwide, act as a constant reminder of the vigilance of the state, often times
implicitly criminalizing the very same people they were meant to protect:
The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to
see constantly and to recognize immediately. In short, it reverses the
principle of a dungeon; or rather its three functions to enclose, to deprive
of light and hide it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two.
Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness,
which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap (Foucault 1975, pg300).
These measures are part of an on-going war for public space that responses to the
typical desire of deviants20 on and around public transportation to seek out spaces
that provide them the most cover from the all-seeing eye in the sky; spaces like bus
stop shelters, the notorious back of the bus, or deeply shielded passages in the stair
banks of both buses and light rails are perfect.
20 As defined by the mainstream as anyone not adhering to cultural constructed social rules and norms to include but not
limited to: Punks, skaters, drug pushers, the political subversive, and the addicted.

Felons are one group of citizens that are deemed permanently deviant
regardless of future life choices. In my own observations and interviews felons
tend to congregate in the back of the bus, enabling a view of everything and
everyone, so as to never be caught unaware by a police officer or would be
wrongdoer. Perhaps correlated to an intimate knowledge of the harsh side of power
and authority, former inmates never forget that the Panopticon is ultimately based
on force. It always has been and always will be (Jensen, 2004).
However, many other citizens whom have not experienced incarceration
fail to recognize power in its diffused forms, resulting in tacit compliance in a
system of their own oppression. What one generation perceives as repression, the
next accepts as a necessary part of a complex daily life (Jensen, 2004). Call it
scientific structured observation, as did Jeremy Bentham, or Big Brother, like
Orwell, or HALO (as the Denver police call their dozens of high-tech security
cameras now installed all around Denvers high activity downtown transit area),
understanding the intersection of power and technology in the state-sanctioned
monitoring and socializing of the public is essential to understanding Americas
security and surveillance obsessed culture, especially on public transit.

3 Literature Review
The universal and ineluctable consequence of this crusade to secure the city is
the destruction of accessible public space. The contemporary opprobrium attached
to the term street person is in itself a harrowing index of the devaluation of
public spaces Mike Davis, City of Quartz
This ongoing civil war for urban space is currently being fueled by the cultural and
class elites deep distain for the liberal usage of public space during the heyday of
Keynesianism in the 1960s and 70s, when they feel they were forced out of the
city into the suburbs. A political game changer, the election of Ronald Reagan
helped usher a new class into political dominance, with a new vision of public
space. Arguably any policing practices after 1980, including those on the bus, can
only be understood in this historical context of an ongoing class war (Davis, 1990).
Alarmed by the modem status quo, Jeff Ferell aptly stated that
Somethings gone wrong. Something has shifted away, away from what it means
to live our lives in public, away from a sense of the city as an open, inclusive
community (2001). Hard-pressed to verbalize an immediate response to what this
something ismany urban scholars think it has something to do what is known
as urban neoliberalism. An economic philosophy synonymous with free markets,
privatization, and small government, neoliberalism is a reiteration of the late 19th
century classical liberalism. While signs of urban neoliberalism are present in
architecture, public policy, and in physical space itself (such as public
transportation systems), neoliberalism manifests in different ways, making it

particularly difficult to define or put into words. However, to understand the full
effects of neoliberal policies on public transportation in particular, it is essential to
understand a bit of the history leading to the contemporary neoliberal policy
The death of Roosevelt in 1944 is arguably when the seeds of
neoliberalism were historically planted. Leading up to the election of President
Dwight D Eisenhower in 1953 the priorities in major cites began to shift from
social reproduction to reproducing capital, with an ever growing concern over a
lack of capital accumulation in the cities, aided by a growing number of urban
dwellers choosing alternatives to city life. In fact, beginning in the 1950s, many
citizens21 with capital began to leave the cities for a new life in the suburbs,
driving there on the new American super highways (Bernstein and Solomon,
2011). In 1954, with the notorious Brown v Board of Education, city schools
started the process of desegregation putting many white people into a panic22 and
exacerbating the flight from the city. The result has been called white flight, an
exodus of affluent white capital from the cities to the already established
exclusively white suburbs (Bernstein and Solomon, 2011). White flight took
capitalist investment dollars away from the city as those with money fled the city
21 Specifically, only white, heterosexual protestant males, as all others, including Jews, African
American, native Americans, and Asian Americans, were legally kept out of the best suburbs via
restrictive covenantslegal documents set up to prohibit he sale or rental of any property to non
Aryan persons.
22 This panic arguably is rooted in a fear of forced integration and exposure to difference in their
own community.

in search of security and conformity in the suburbs, which also led business and
other community investment dollars to invest in the infrastructure of suburbia in
the form of malls, grocery chains" and entertainment complexes. Secondly, the
existing public space infrastructure of cities in the forms of parks, bathrooms,
and recreational areas, paid for with dollars from the progressives and their New
Deal Successors, began to deteriorate as urban development dollars ran out, and
Americas tax base and political center of gravity shifted to the suburbs (Siegel).
Devoid of progressive public policy money for public works projects, as well as
the simultaneous loss of a substantial portion of the taxable citizen and business
base, U.S. cities in the late 1960s and throughout the 70s and 80s suffered
immensely, falling victim to crime, poverty, and public disorder (Siegel). When
the police were withdrawn from the neighborhoods and the social workers pulled
out of the projects, skid row behavior and a sense of menace extended outward to
include larger and larger portions of the city. The attempt to eliminate arbitrary
authority resulted in the elimination of almost all stabilizing authority (Siegel).
As unruly cites were abandoned by those with wealth and the businesses that
followed them, politicians delivered a final blow in 1975 when President Ford
refused to help the city of New York avoid bankruptcy by extending new federal
aid to the city, famously covered by the Daily News running the headline: FORD 23
23 Particularly hurtful to the inner city where many areas are considered food deserts, meaning
people do not have access to food via a grocery store or farmers market within a reasonable
distance of their residence.

TO CITY: DROP DEAD As if the presidents advice were taken literally, U.S.
cites in the 1980s became economically, socially, and environmentally dead,
leading many scholars to conclude they were little more than cemeteries or
reservations for the dead and dying elements of society. Politically, America
began to return to a pre-New Deal anti-welfare state mentality, becoming
explicitly focused on how to bring development and capital investment back to
cities that were seen as on an unsustainable downwards trajectory. In relation to
urban mass transit centers in the same time period, crime began to take over and
the lack of investment dollars could be readily seen on U.S. city buses and subway
cars nationwide.
3.1 Transit Crime
The problem of crime is a very real threat effecting transit systems
nationwide, a threat that is not always well reported.
This study suggested that transit crimes may be significantly underreported
for crimes on the system and are a sizable portion of crimes off the system.
Sources of bias were underreporting by victims of a crime, an inadequate
transit crime recording information system, lack of the follow-up by the
police, and failure to correctly attribute a crime occurrence as transit
related. The results suggested that bus transit crime may be a far more
serious problem than earlier studies had concluded (Hoel,pg 511)
Other reports on crime and public transportation reveal that crime has been
increasing about in proportion to transit ridership, starting around the 1960s
(Pearlstein, 1982).

In order to understand the official response to mass transit crime in relation
to policing and policy making, it is essential to thoroughly understand the specific
features of crime related to mass transit. For reason of simplicity, I will apply the
four Ws of What, Who, Where, and When to an analysis of crime patterns on
public transportation systems.
Broadly categorized, crime on public transport can fall in to one of four categories:
theft, violence, deviant behavior violating the quality of life, or malicious
behavior like destruction of property and vandalism. Crimes involving theft have
money as a motive, such as robbery, pickpocketing, and fare evasion, and usually
bring no physical harm to human beings. Crimes of a more violent nature are
typically assaults, although murder happens rarely. The specific problem presented
by violent crime on mass transit is pointed out by Martha Smith and Ronald Clarke
when they argue that it perpetuates a cycle of fear in which crime on public
transport leads to increased fear, which in turn results in a drop in ridership
(2000, pg 202). Further, decreased ridership translates to less community
supervision on mass transit, creating an environment ripe for crime, causing even
greater losses in ridership, translating to direct revenue losses (Clarke 2000, pg
Crimes violating the established quality of life (for instance, panhandling,
cursing, public intoxication, public displays of affectionparticularly for the

GLBTQ community, and anti- capitalist/American sentiments being openly voiced
in public, mainly affect the revenue generation of busses by discouraging ridership
amongst the affluent and are seen by many officials as a perpetual annoyance .
Finally the crime of vandalism, the willful destruction of property, is a constant
problem for transit agencies (Hoel). With actual broken windows costing the
system the most money to replace, damaged seats come in second, causing the
system not only finical losses, but a decrease in social order, argued by Wilson and
Kelling to increase the likelihood that future crime will occur (Hoel). Also not to
be forgotten in the category of vandalism, the spray painting of buses, rail cars ,
and transportation transit stops, broadly known as graffiti, is a problem that has
long plagued transit systems (Hoel).
In relation to the specific demographic being harmed by crime on public
transportation, Ronald Clarke argues there are three are three main targets of
public transport crimes: the system (as in vandalism or fare evasion), employees
(as in assaults on ticket collectors), or passengers (as in pickpocketing or
overcharging) (2000, pg 169). Even more specific, the human targets deemed to
be the most vulnerable to crime on mass public transit are the elderly and bus
drivers. The elderly are a particularly vulnerable group of passengers, not just due
to frailty and old age, but because they are transit-dependent increasing their
frequency of transit use to very often (Hoel, pg 514). Bus Drivers, the other group

highly susceptible to mass transit crime are always at greater risk of being
victimized, simply due to their authoritative position as a representative of the state
(Pearlstein 1982, pg 286).
The common assumption that transit crime only occurs while on board a transit
vehicle has been refuted by empirical evidence. Hoel elaborates that crime related
to bus transit can occur in three separate environments: (1) while traveling on the
bus, (2) while waiting at a bus stop, and (3) while walking to or from the bus stop
(pg 261). In addition, Martha Smith and Ronald Clarke make the important
distinction that certain transit stations are safer then others, pointing to isolated rail
stations, elevated platforms, and stations situated in generally high crime areas as
especially troubled locations in relations to frequency of crimes being committed.
While public transit crime can be committed any time and place, more often than
not burglaries, robberies, and assaults tend to take place at night.
Accordingly, and in response to this criminal environment plaguing U.S. cites in
the late 1980s, state and business interests aligned to fight transit crime and stave
off rider paranoia by aggressively implementing not only new policing polices, but
a wide range of new security measures aimed at maintaining ultimate control over
the public space of urban mass transit (Jensen, 2004). Affecting nearly all aspects
of public transportation the new architectural designs and security aids are readily

visible on transit vehicles (buses and trains). Buses are now equipped with two-
way radios, enabling drivers to alert dispatchers to their location and to call
attention to incidents which they observe on board the vehicles or at transit stops
(Pearlstein 1982, pg 280). Already proving that these radio devices can be easily
thwarted by criminals carrying knifes or guns, the state has stayed one step ahead
by introducing new silent alarms (Pearlstein 1982, pg 280). The silent alarm,
encoded to identify the bus, immediately notifies a dispatcher of a problem aboard
a vehicle. In addition, the alarm may be connected to flashing lights on the exterior
of the bus, calling the problem to the attention of local police patrols, transit
inspectors, or the public (Pearlstein 1982, pg 280). Further, modem buses now
have large numerical numbers painted on their roofs as to be easier seen by police
helicopters. As for the inside of transit vehicles, they are wired with the latest and
greatest CCTV, audio recording, and surveillance technology money can buy,
offering nearly non stop coverage of any passenger riding at any time, proving
useful as evidence in criminal convictions.
Addressing a critical underlying assumption justifying the security
measures implemented to control public transit, Pearlstein & Wachs (date) reject
the notion that crime is as high as the public believes it to be. We must recognize
that public information and perceptions about crime and transit are to a great
extent distortions of factual information, and that is critical to distinguish fact form
perception (296). Such distorted views of urban crime levels are possibly due to

revanchist attitudes held by the elite classes who often correlate any presence of
disorder on public transit with a national epidemic of crime in public places.
3.2 Reverse White Flight The return to the city and the introduction of
broken windows policing
Speaking to attitude of affluent people towards the city in the 1970s, urban
planner Jennifer Moulton sums up the low-point of cites when she states that the
only people remaining in the city in the 1970s were those unwanted as neighbors
anywhere else. Unhappy with the status quo, those with money began to focus on
once again on how to bring money back to the city. With economic revitalization
at the forefront of the sociopolitical agenda, nearly all significant urban
developments in the post 1970s era would begin to be interpreted through the lens
of neoliberal profit maximization as opposed to social reproduction. As
aforementioned, the election of Ronald Regan in 1981 signaled the rise to power
of the neoliberals, announcing to the predominately white upper and middle-class
elite they were once again a high priority. Dissatisfied with the profitability of
suburbia and the loss of downtown as a place for the affluent to reproduce socially,
city leaders following the election of Ronald Reagan began to advance the idea
that sanitizing the landscape would reverse the urban decline (Smith, 1999).
There were many strategies adopted as part of this landscape sanitizing
agenda, and the cleansing of urban mass transit systems were among them.

Cognizant of the fact that, before the city could be officially reclaimed, passages to
the city via mass public transit must be rendered clean, sanitary and most
importantly safe, urban mass transit was strategically chosen by state/business
interests to be an early point of focus to begin the decontamination of the city.
There were some good reasons for this focus. Crime, not new to U.S. mass
public transit, has plagued the system since its inception, but before the 1960s
crime on public transit was predominately non-violent and mostly limited to
property crimes such as vandalism or pickpocketing By 1981, however, a crime
report and analysis of the Southern California Rapid Transit District of Los
Angeles (SCRTD) conducted by Adele Pearlstein and Martin Wachs revealed that
incidents of violent crime like armed robbery, assaults with deadly weapons, and
batteries had become far more prevalent on mass public transit in LA (1982, pg
284). These crimes were not just committed against passengers; between 1978 and
1980 the number of bus drivers in LA being robbed and assaulted more than
doubled, shedding light on how vulnerable employees as well as passengers were
on mass public transit (Pearlstein 1982, pg 284). In a response to such problems,
and In an effort to achieve the goal of reclaiming urban mass transit systems, new
types of policing were implemented in the 1980s to cleanse transit lines of
undesirable persons and behavior
Hailed as the founding fathers of modem urban policing strategy, James Q.
Wilson and George L. Kelling were made famous for their methods of social

control announced in their 1982 seminal work Broken Windows, appearing in
The Atlantic Monthly (Duneier 1999, pg 157). Chiefly concerned with bringing
back a sense of civility to public spaces, Wilson and Kelling mainly strategize and
formulize theories having to do with policing and regulating public disorder.
Understanding the role fear of violent attack plays in keeping people out of the
city, Wilson and Kelling chose to focus on the public fear of being disturbed by
disorderly elements of society, including but not limited to: panhandlers, drunks,
addicts, rowdy teenagers, prostitutes, and loiterers (Wilson 1982, pg 2). Not
necessarily criminals, these persons have been described by author Fred Siegel as,
what nineteenth-century journalists called the dangerous classes and Marxists
described as the lumpenproletariat (1992). Importantly for this thesis, these
kinds of people tend often to show up on mass transit systems (especially busses
and subways), and so it is not surprising that much of the early theory and practice
of broken windows policing targeted mass transit systems.
Ripe for disorder due to the collection of deviant social characters who
often ride the lines, public transportation is a very unique space. The dynamics of
public transportation are anonymous and tightly enclosed, and include the reality
that diverse riders are unable to choose their company, which enables risk taking
behavior to flourish (Fleetwood 2004, pg 37). In response to this situation, Public
transportation spaces have traditionally seen the state exhibit a range of situational
controls to control such disorder (Clarke 2000, pg 171). Kelling and Wilson

comment on how beat cops back in the 19th century successfully policed disorder
by basically constructing a gray zone for social deviants, where norms could be
broken but only when done in a responsible manner: drunks and addicts could
sit on the stops, but could not lie down, people could drink on the side streets, but
not at the main intersections and bottles had to be in paper bags (1982, pg 2). In
addition, Talking to, bothering, or begging from people waiting at the bus stop
was strictly forbidden (1982, pg 2), with any violators swiftly being arrested for
vagrancy to preserve the social order.
This idea that public standards of order and civility should always be
maintained to preserve order became the foundation of Kelling and Wilsons
policing theories that argued that the true measure of police efficiency is, in fact,
the absence of crime and disorder, as opposed to mere visible evidence of police
action (Siegel 1997. pg 192). Out of this philosophy Wilson and Kellings
ground breaking criminology theory of Broken Windows was birthed, providing
the state and business interests new tactics to police disorder and reestablish the
chosen social order. Correlating disorder with crime and vice versa, Broken
Windows policing theory argues, with the backing of social psychologists and
police officer testimony, that if a window in a building is broken and left
unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon break (Wilson and Kelling,
1982, pg 2). In this theory, fare skippers, loud teenagers on a bus or subway
graffiti artists are all argued to be human broken windows, who, if not

relentlessly controlled, will signal a broader social disorder and even explosion of
violent crime to come.
Essentially arguing that it is not only the job of the police, but also of the
broader community to maintain social order, Broken Windows theory puts the
onus of responsibility for community order and civility on all who interact in said
community. Community and/or individual inaction in the face of public displays of
incivility leads to a no one cares attitude, potentially crippling a neighborhood or
city by breaking down the self imposed controls of the community (Wilson and
Kelling, 1982, pg 3).
This theory implies that failure to impose informal community rules is the
first step to an insecure and crime ridden community, by virtue of the fact that
disorder is contagious and allowing it to thrive in even a small instance lays the
foundation for a criminal future.
The unchecked panhandler is, in effect the first broken window. Muggers
and robbers, whether opportunistic or professional, believe they reduce
their chances of being caught or even identified if they operate on streets
where potential victims are already intimidated by prevailing conditions. If
the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying
passerby, the thief may reason, it s even less likely to call the police to
identify a potential mugger or to interfere if the mugging actually takes
place (Wilson and Kelling, 1982, pg 5).
Unruly teenagers, skater punks, property destroying graffiti, panhandlers, and even
trash, are all broken windows that can all lead to an environment that is perceived
to be disorderly and violent, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the

orderly elements of society retreat behind closed doors and the disorderly criminal
set becomes embolden by the signs that a given area is ungoverned and
ungovernable (Glazer, 1978). Calling for the community to contribute to an
overall safer environment by working with police officers and expeditiously
reporting even the smallest violations of the social order, Broken Windows theory
predominately relies on the police to enforce informal control mechanisms, since
in the end community residents do not have the power or obligation to force their
neighbors to behave in civil ways (Wilson and Kelling, 1982, pg 6).
For these reasons, Broken Windows theory firmly rejects the notion that
certain forms of non violent behavior should in fact be decriminalized because
they harm no one. In the eyes of Wilson and Kelling, shifting the focus off of
these supposed non-crimes would be detrimental to law enforcements ability to
maintain broader neighborhood order (1982, pg 7).
This theory applies to all neighborhoods and public areas in a city, but it is
interesting that Wilson and Kelling offer a special focus on urban mass transit
systems. In fact, in concluding the Broken Windows article, Wilson and Kelling
make a broad pitch to police officers to begin implementation of broken windows
theory by informally riding public transportation while off duty:
Patrol officers might be encouraged to go to and form duty stations on
public transportation and, while on the bus or subway car, enforce rules
about smoking, drinking, disorderly conduct, and the like. The enforcement
need involve nothing more than ejecting the offender (the offense, after all,
is not one with which a booking officer or judge wishes to be bothered).

Perhaps the random but relentless maintenance of standards on buses
would lead to conditions on buses that approximate the level of civility we
now take for granted on airplanes.
Wilson and Killing offer the analogy of behavior on an airplane as the ideal
environment of urban life. First, an airplane is extremely well-secured, with
multiple points of screening that a passenger must endure before boarding a flight,
thus stifling possible criminal activity. Second, airplanes are clean, sanitized,
tightly regulated environments making passengers feel safe, secure, and relaxed ,
and fully able to predict the likely behavior of all other passengers. Further,
airplanes are economically pricey, allowing riders to choose their company,
resting on the assumption everyone on the plane has at least a bit of money.
In the end, Broken Windows theory, and its dream of urban life as a
regulated community living on an airplane, was fully incorporated into modem
criminology and urban regeneration strategies, spawning the contemporary
strategies of Zero Tolerance and Quality of Life Policing. Allowing absolutely no
lenience in relation to any violations of the law, Zero Tolerance policing is in
accordance with a theory that the best way to reduce the overall crime rates is to
attack crime from the bottom up. Instead of allocating disproportionate resources
into prosecuting kingpins criminal ringleaders and violent murderers, Zero
Tolerance chooses to focus on street level criminals and minor episodes of
disorder (such as loitering and graffiti), thus helping to restore and maintain the
social order believed to be so crucial to crime reduction in Broken Windows

theory. Unable to actually legislate morality, quality of life policing, is a way in
which that grey area of public disorder (broadly associated with a decline in moral
standards) can essentially be controlled. Not policing for criminal violations per se
(Wilson and Kelling argue that it is actually very difficult for officers to catch
most criminal violators), officers enforcing zero tolerance policy by harassing
local teenagers on the streets or moving along the homeless tend to make rather
strong suggestions24, to persons violating the social order that they need to
move along. Even without actual evidence of a crime, officers suggest when
dealing with street loiterers and the like that they do in fact have the force of law
and, if needed, will begin to look for a reason to arrest if the disruptive behavior
continue. Wilson and Kelling celebrate such policing as the relentless patrol of
the borders of civility, admitting that police may even become a bit extra
constitutional in ordering targeted disorderly persons to behave in ways the police
believe more acceptable. In essence, this type of enforcement contributes to at
least the facade of social order, with persons quickly being reprimanded by the
state for any deviation outside of the norm.
Proponents of Broken Windows theory, Quality of Life, and Zero
Tolerance policing, cite numerous studies to indicate important economic reasons
for cleansing U.S. public transportation systems. Regarded by most contemporary
24 Witnessing this type of aggressive suggesting first hand in downtown Denver, Colorado, I
witnessed an officer repeatedly threaten a panhandler with background checks to reveal any
outstanding warrants.

governmental officials as a vital component of energy and environmental policy,
well-utilized public transportation is argued to significantly reduce congestion and
pollution threatening take over most major U.S. cities (Clarke 2000, pg 176).
Further as argued by Smith and Clarke, public transport is essential to the vitality
and economic welfare of metropolitan areas, it provides access for rich and poor
alike to the citys amenities, and it permits the central core to serve as the
economic engine for the metropolis as a whole (Yaro and Hiss 1996) (Clarke
2000, pg 176).
3.3 Contending Views
Though public fears over crime epidemics have fostered support for
aggressive policing strategies like a zero-tolerance broken windows approach,
there isnt much evidence that such an approach actually has helped to reduce
crime. In fact, as argued by Martha Smith & Ronald Clarke (2000), though
policing strategies like Broken Windows, when implemented on public transit,
have been celebrated for reducing urban crime levels, such arguments fail to
recognize other factors which are probably more responsible for contributing to
drops in crime for example: demographic changes (namely the declining number
of young men that coincided with the nationwide drop in crime) as well as
changes in drug use patterns form crack to heroin (213). Furthermore, although
there have been signs of a nationwide decline in crime associated with the

implementation of broken windows theory, some studies have not been able to
correlate declining crime in specific areas with implementation of the program.
Broken Windows theory with its focus on regulating signs of disorder,
argues that a cleanup effort thwarts potential criminals by showing visible signs
of authority(Smith & Clarke 2000, 214). Logically, when applying Broken
Windows theory, it would be reasonable to expect that the cleanup of a
widespread physical incivility, like the graffiti problem ob the New York City
subway, would have resulted in either a drop in crime or a drop in social
incivilities or both (Smith & Clarke 2000, 214). Notoriously covered in graffiti in
the 1970s and 80s, transit authorities in New York employed several tactics
including forming a special graffiti taskforce, to clean up the New York subway,
arresting all graffiti artists on site, as well as engaging in massive cleanup efforts
train by train(Smith & Clarke 2000, 215). In the end, however, studies show that
felony crime complaints on the subway were steady from 1983 through 1988
(Smith & Clarke 2000, 214), with crime rates peaking by 1990 (the same period as
these efforts were implemented), affirming no positive correlation between graffiti
cleanup efforts and reduction in transit crime. The results of the graffiti cleanup
suggest that the broken windows thesis needs modifying to accommodate the fact
that not all forms of disorder act in the same way to encourage serious crime
(Smith & Clarke 2000, 216). If aggressive subway cleanup efforts dont show
results in terms of reducing crime, what drives such efforts? Some scholars argue

that aggressive policing campaigns, typically supported by the business elite and a
growing number of upper-income residents in the city, are a purposely punitive
and intimidating behavior, aimed at the disproportionately non-Caucasian lower
Cognizant of the ramifications of neoliberal polices on larger society, a
coterie of highly influential urban scholars from Mike Davis and Neil Smith to
Christian Parenti and Don Mitchell have meticulously documented the
contradictions and shortcomings of the contemporary war to reclaim the city.
Geographer Neil Smith (1999) utilizes the term revanchism to describe this type
of behavior, stating it blends revenge with reaction, and is driven by upper-
income urban elites dedicated to reclaiming their city from the unruly counter-
cultural forces of the 1960s and 70s. Critiquing the social policies of the economic
and political elite, Smith takes issues with zero tolerance policing, broken
windows theory, and other similar tactics that disproportionately cater to the rich
while marginalizing the poor. Moreover, while these new policing practices are
hailed by those upper-income interests who are returning to the city, Smith
provides perspective as to why poor and working class communities, 25
25 Dating back to 19th century France, the term is used to describe the nationalistic movement of reaction against both the
royalty and the working class (Smith 1996, 450) (Mitchell 2003, 191).

predominately of color26, feel as though they are being oppressed, and are living in
a constant fear of police authority due to such tactics:
In fact, zero tolerance policing has led to an increase in police
brutality and abuse, with a rash of police murders, shootings,
beatings, sexual assaults, wrongful arrests, and various forms of
corruption suggesting a police force out of control....Even the police
union, itself a bastion of revanchism, has complained that zero-
tolerance tactics have become a blueprint for a police state and
tyranny (Smith, 2001).
Leading the revanchist charge to reclaim the cities for the wealthy, Mayor Rudy
Giuliani of New York is responsible for many public policy initiatives directed at
gentrifying and exploiting lower socio-economic communities:
The police were ordered to purse with zero tolerance any and all
supposed petty criminals whose actions threatened the quality of life;
once arrested, their cases were to be equally vigorously prosecuted; a
database was established for tracking homeless people; and precinct were
given widely expanded powers to bypass legal and bureaucratic checks on
police behavior (Smith).
Exploring revanchist policing as it applies to urban mass transit, Christian
Parentis examination of the implementation of these new policing strategies on
New York City subways in the 1990s reveals that before these new law
enforcement measure could get underway, of the very psychology of transit police
required vigorous adjustment. Heres how Parenti describes the broken
windows train of thought in this regard: 26
26 The victims of the New York strategy [Broken Windows/Zero Tolerance] have been people of color,
youth, and the poor (Christian Parenti, Lockdown America 1999, 74).

The subway seemed out of control because the police seemed uninterested
in safety. The cops were uninterested in safety because they were given
meaningless jobs and inadequate equipment. Morale was abysmal. To
reinvigorate the rank and file Bratton [New York City transit police chief]
lobbied for more cars, new radios, better uniforms, and most important of
all: new Glock nine-millimeter semiautomatic handguns, with fifteen-
round clips (1999, 72).
The qualitative indicator of the success of the officers new paramilitary
accessories came in the form of complements from local youth who, after readily
identifying the transit polices new weapons, were quoted as saying Hey Transits
got nines! (Parenti 1999, 73). In addition to the new equipment provided to transit
police, Bratton understood that the job itself needed to be made more interesting to
increase employee morale (Parenti 1999, 73). Dovetailing nicely with the broken
windows focus on order maintenance the reassigning of boring tasks such as
guarding ticket booths to more productive tasks of enforcing minor legal
infractions such as fare evasion helped transit police to better subjugate human
behavior(Parenti 1999, 73). Armed with their new high-power equipment, and
with police brass seeking higher morale by pushing police into more direct crime-
fighting roles, fare evaders, argued to be the biggest broken window[s] in the
transit system, were heavily targeted by the regional transit authority (Parenti
1999, 73). Keen on ending free rides, police chief Bratton started a now famous
trend of having transit police ride as undercover plain clothed passengers to better
catch fare evaders (Parenti 1999, 73). Taking it one step further, Bratton also

orchestrated large raids of the New York City subway with groups of ten or more
officers, instructed to harshly crack down on all far evaders and minor criminals
(Parenti 1999, 73). Further, expediting the judicial process, people were arrested
by the score, handcuffed together, and taken off in long coffles to mobile booking
stations, where officers working in teams processed prisoners in batches of
twenty (Parenti 1999, 73). Feeling like their job held greater importance due to
such action in the Field, transit cops dealt with the alleged_connection between
disorder and crime by issuing tickets for minor crimes with impunity (Parenti
1999, 73). Parenti argues that transit guards executing semi-regular raids with guns
and dogs on public transportation are in essence articulating a, simple political
semaphore from the state to the people: We have the guns, we have the dogs, you
will obey(Parenti 1999, 74).
Typically a right-wing movement rooted in traditional values, revanchism
of this sort is a tactic of those who hope not only to usher in a new era of civility in
the cities, but also to punish those responsible for the liberal excesses of the 1960s
(Mitchell 2003, 164). The movement is not exclusively right wing, however.
Smith makes the important distinction that some of the most vicious revanchist
attacks on public space have been courtesy of liberal urban administrations (Smith
1996, 220; Mitchell 2003, 164). In fact much of the establishment liberal political-
economic elite who are returning to the city are very pleased with this state of
affairs, hailing champions of their cause like former New York City Mayor Rudy

Giuliani, for cleaning up and securing their city (Smith). Claiming that cities are
once again inhabitable, as a result of revanchist policies that increase violence
against the homeless, while targeting the indigent, the squeegee men and the fare
evaders with police, the former suburbanites take revenge against the social
elements of society they feel initially drove them form the city. Simultaneously,
these activities clean up urban areas for more profitable activities. Evidence of
this pattern can been seen in gentrifying inner cities, where Business
Improvement Districts, also know as BIDs, lead their own efforts in the
sanitization of formerly disorderly space.
BIDs emerged as a significant political force within New York City during
the 1980s, motivated by the business communitys sense of helplessness
over its inability to control the public spaces, which affected the value of
its real estate and the success of its commercial activates. By employing
their own security forces and sanitation workers, the BIDs have brought
about the degree of civic order called for by the broken windows theory.
Some BIDs are politically powerful, working to achieve their ends through
close associations with the mayor and/or members of the City Council
(Duneier 1999, 231).
Quality of life, zero-tolerance broken windows policing, whether
implemented by BIDS or by transit agencies, both assert the same hard logic: if an
individuals actions or way of living interferes with capital reproduction in any
way, those actions will be deemed violations of the Quality of life and will result
in a immediate citation or arrest under the zero tolerance policing statutes. As a
consequence, measures like aggressive policing, the militarization of public space,

increased surveillance, and many other authoritative strategies, subject the poor
and working class, disproportionately of color, to a variety of social control
measures and their consequences. However, the factors contributing to the socio-
political environment of the bus are not limited to police strategy and government
policy as many actors form terrorists to public servants contribute to the
environment of the bus.

4. Historical Context
Derived from the Latin word Omnibus, meaning vehicle for all, the
etymology of the bus clearly indicates a public purpose, never intended to be
exclusive or homogeneous. Extending this notion of Omni to the rest of urban
mass transit, mainly trains, subway cars, and light rail trains, the notion of public
vehicles for all, in the United States, is at best a romanticized view of how
Americans regard themselves in relation to the egalitarian principles the country
was founded upon. A brief glance at American mass transit history and
development shows a much different story, with public transportation systems
exhibiting a history of racism and classism, in terms of restricting who can ride
public transportation, and under what conditions. Chapter 3 previously framed the
prejudice present in American mass transit history, as seen in such episodes as,
Plessy v. Ferguson, the Montgomery bus boycotts, and the rise and
implementation of Revanchist policing policies like zero tolerance and quality of
life policing in the late 80s and early 90s. It is the goal of the first part of this
chapter to historically frame the last decade in this same way, demonstrating the
profound impact terrorism has had on mass transit policing practices, and the
resulting consequences for economically, culturally, and or racially marginalized
Prior to the events of September 11, 2001, air travel both domestically and
internationally received minimal scrutiny from airport security divisions. Nostalgic

persons, old enough to remember air travel prior to 9/11, fondly remember a time
when passengers were free from invasive screening procedures and were even
granted the privilege of being accompanied to the plane by friends and family.
The United States, in a dramatic response to these events, instituted a
range of new domestic security measures aimed at deterring terrorism and securing
the public. In a vulnerable state after being attacked at home, the public offered
collective blind consent for new government programs and security policies in
exchange for a promise of domestic security, contributing to the erosion of civil
liberties. Arguably providing ideological cover for the president, 9/11 created a
power vacuum, enabling President Bush to rapidly advance his neo-liberal, neo-
conservative, and revanchist27 agenda while appearing to be only fighting for
national security. Specific to the politics of public transit, the enacting of the
Aviation and Transportation Security Act in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,
which was responsible for the creation of the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA),28 had the single largest impact on the day to day operations
of urban mass transit.29
Considering the possibility of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, the
unofficial motto of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its not a
27 Particularly in regards to his foreign policy regarding the middle east and Saddam Hussein that
exhibited clear signs of vengeance, relating to death threats made against his father George Bush
Senior during Operation Deseret Storm.
28 Absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in 2003.

matter of if but when. This motto fits well with the departments overall
obsession with securing the homeland. Swiftly attempting to close the
communication and bureaucratic loopholes that gave way to 9/11, mainly the
inability of the U.S. intelligence agencies to freely share information with federal
law enforcement agencies, DHS made it easier for the TSA, law enforcement, and
Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE), among others, to work together for
common homeland security needs. Leveraging congressional support to win
substantial government funds, the Department of Homeland Security ensured the
financial success of a host of new domestic surveillance programs, as well as
support for the nations many law enforcement and transportation security
divisions, in the form of educational and training grants.
Since airplanes were the weapon of terror on that day, the effects could
soon be seen in any airport. DHSs sudden presence was evidence of the heavy
funding of anti-terror activity. From the new technologically advanced passenger
screening systems, to the mass proliferation of surveillance cameras, armed
guards, and undercover air marshals on board passenger planes, the United States
federal government sought to send a clear and overt message that the security
failures of 9/11 would not be replicated.
The TSA disproportionately allocated resources to the securitization of the
nations airports, due to their perceived vulnerability post 9/11, but it quickly
shifted funding and focus to other areas of transportation after two European terror

attacks. The train bombing in Spain, and bus bombings in England30 profoundly
shaped the future of American urban mass transit by providing the proof required
for the Department of Homeland Security to expand their net of securitization
measures to all forms of public transit. As a result, in an effort to fully prepare law
enforcement and transit security divisions for a looming terrorist attack on urban
mass transit, Department of Homeland Security resources were made available for
equipment, grants, training, and many other upgrades, resulting in an increasingly
aggressive law enforcement, now prone to be keyed towards the threat of terrorism
reoccurring on U.S. soil. Considering such measures, this thesis argues that
revanchist policy initiatives like zero-tolerance and quality of life policing (which
tend to be driven by neoliberal efforts to reclaim urban space from disorderly
non-white and low-income populations) indirectly benefit from homeland security
money, and further subject the petty criminals targeted by theses policies to
antiterrorist-style law enforcement tactics, sometimes ending with the loss of life.
For Oscar Grant III, this unfortunate scenario became tragic reality when
he was shot and killed at the age of 22 in the early hours of New Years Day,
2009. Bay Area Rapid Transits (Leonard, Sewell, La Ganga, 2010) security
officer Johannes Mehserle claimed it was an accident. The BART shooting quickly
became politically charged, when cell phone videos captured from the scene
30 Also known as 4/11, the Madrid train bombings in March of 2004, killing 191 people and injuring 1,500 (AP press.
White, 2004) and the London bus bombings in July of 2005 also known as 7/7, killed 56 people and injured 700 (AP press).

revealed that not only was Grant African-American, and officer Johannes
Caucasian, but Grant had been shot in the back, assassination style, lying face
down on the light rail platform floor with his arms handcuffed behind
him(Leonard, Sewell, La Ganga, 2010). A jury later convicted Mehserle of
involuntary manslaughter, earning him the minimum sentence of 2 years with
credit granted for time already served (Peralta, 2010). The jury were heavily
swayed by the defense's argument that the BART officer had confused his taser
gun with his firearm, making a fatal, but human error (Peralta, 2010). Strikingly
similar to what happened after the conclusion of the 1992 Rodney King trial, the
city of Oakland took to the streets, protesting and rioting against the state, crying
out against police brutality and racial injustice in response to the less than
favorable sentence. In the aftermath, issues leading to Grants death have been
addressed by transit security divisions nation wide, mainly increasing taser training
to 5 hours, and repositioning tasers on service belts. Regardless of such enhanced
training efforts, systemic problems of just this kind of structural violence continue
to plague economically and racially marginalized communities experiences on
urban mass transit, as will be demonstrated through a case study of mass transit
realities in Denver, Colorado.

4.1 Case study of Denver Colorados Regional Transportation District
Having presented a range of theory demonstrating how mass transit is a
representative lens through which to view deeper social truths about modern cities,
it is the objective of this section to apply those theories to ground level dynamics
in a single city. Given my high frequency of public transit use and experience as a
rider, I choose to investigate the transportation system of my home city of Denver,
Colorado. I conducted a year long ethnographic study of RTD, combining first-
hand observations with interviews, web research, primary document analysis, and
a city wide survey on RTD security perceptions. Merely paying attention to detail
(RTD rules and regulations, and employee behavior) while observing the site of
public transit as public space constituted the beginning stages of my research .
After gathering a sufficient amount of primary observation data, I began inquiries
with RTD. Under the naive assumption that public institutions are transparent and
customer friendly when faced with questions about procedure, I soon became
thoroughly acquainted with the less than responsive bureaucracy associated with
RTD. Narrowing down my inquiries to questions regarding security cameras and
armed security officers, I phoned into RTD administrative offices several times
over the course of the first few weeks of February 2010. In that time, I was
directed to voicemail after voicemail from legal, to security, to communications,
and even to public affairs, each time gaining no ground regarding my research

Thoroughly frustrated after hearing no response, I took it upon my self to
personally visit RTD on Wednesday, February 24th, in hopes of maybe getting
some questions answered face to face. Once at RTD I was directed to the lobby
where I was put through a metal detector, signed in, given a visitors badge, and
told to be patient while someone was located for me. Approximately 20 minutes
later the frontend operator informed me that they were unable to help me at this
time, handing me a business card to try and call in an appointment at a later date.
Beyond annoyed, I began to consider utilization of the Colorado Open Records
Act (CORA). First enacted in 1969, CORA is a series of laws designed to
guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies as all
levels in Colorado .31 Given this law, any state government body receiving a
CORA request has 72 business hours to respond to the request or face legal
penalties. After drafting a CORA request, I hand delivered my request to the RTD
legal secretary in person on March 9, 2010. Postmarked just a few days later, the
CORA response letter from the RTD clearly indicated that I now had the attention
of the entire RTD security team. After the CORA request, the RTD security team
literally rolled out the red carpet, suddenly becoming very amiable to an in person
interview, to avoid any further legal actions. Upon reading through the CORA
response, I quickly phoned RTD transit police Chief officer John Tarbert to
discuss my requests. Over the course of the phone interview we agreed on an in

person meeting. At the end of the conversation, having asked Mr. Tarbert
permission to audio record our interview, his response firmly set the tone of our
relations: Yes sure you can record, and I should let you know that we will be
recording you as well.
I ended up conducting this in-person interviews with the following officials
all present: RTD transit police Chief John Tarbert, RTD transit police investigator
John Perry, and Wackenhut32 project manager Lt. Col. Anthony Vargas at the RTD
administrative security division. I also conducted a few short follow-up phone
interviews with John Tarbert in the fall of 2010. What follows is the
deconstruction of RTD security as a
state apparatus, based on these
interviews and my review of primary
documents regarding RTD security
4.2 The political deconstruction of
RTD as a state apparatus
To meet our constituents present and
future public transit needs by offering
safe, clean, reliable, courteous,
accessible and cost-effective service
throughout the district.
RTD Mission Statement
32 The privately contacted security group employed by RTD.
Figure 4-1

A vital and large governing authority in the Denver metropolitan area, the
study of Regional Transportation District (RTD) governance is also a study of
much of the reality of modern urban governance. A political subdivision of the
state, RTD is a governing body comprised of a 15 member directly elected Board
of Directors (source RTD), with a 2009 operating budget of $400 million dollars.
An operating district covering approximately 27,000 miles, 40 cites and 8
counties, RTD facilitates transportation for around 400,000 people a day. The job
of providing security throughout RTD is not a small task.
4.2.1 Security
An active police officer, a PhD in management, head of security,
emergency preparedness, and current RTD transit police Chief, officer John
Tarberts has been very busy since 9/11. Joining the RTD security team in 2002,
Tarberts management and policing style clearly denote a Kelling and Wilson
flavor, as he took advantage of DHS government reorganizing to write the law in
2004 to get their law enforcement authority, changing RTD security from private
to public security, thus providing the full force of the law behind enforcement of
all transit crimes from fare evasion to passenger assault. Comprised of roughly 175
persons, RTDs security team is compromised of both public and private officers.

On contract with Denver Police Department (DPD) 75 full-time police officers,
split between two shifts a day, contribute to the RTD front-line security team.
However, due to their high pay as state employees, starting at $55 dollars
an hour with full benefits, the RTD security team chose to save money and
contract out the majority of its security force (100 officers) to a private company,
Wackenhut G4S (Source). Currently paying their private employees33 a wage of
$15 dollars an hour, RTD transit Chief Tarbert agues that not only does RTD save
money with Wackenhut G4S, but the quality of law enforcement officer remains
the same. Confident that pay cuts of $40 an hour (compared to the salary paid to
public officers) have not diminished the quality of RTD security, Chief Tarbert
cites the fact that all RTD security officers are bound by the Federal Transit
Authority and that RTDs rigorous officer selection process contributes to greater
quality, as all possible candidates must be Ex-law enforcement either civilian or
military, have completed a law enforcement academy, and have 2 years street cop
experience (interview). In addition as explained by G4S project manager Lt. Col.
Anthony Vargas, all G4S officers are required to complete 80 hours of pre training
at corporate offices, 40 hours of on the job training, and an undisclosed amount of
weapons training, making RTD security officers as well trained as any city cop
(source). Nonetheless, while RTD and G4S management contend that public
33 RTD gets a special subsided rate in regards to DPD cops on staff, paying them only $40 dollars
an hour.

private security partnerships maintain high security standards, private security

contractors are still not held to the same level of public scrutiny as solely public
institutions, essentially evading oversight. For example, through CORA, I was able
to obtain several primary documents and responses to questions by legal right, as
a citizen of the State of Colorado. When attempting to replicate this research
process with G4S, I was unsuccessful as there is no legal mandate requiring
private corporations to divulge information to the public. Information like salary
and weapons training given to transit officers was not made available through
public channels. Arguably for Wackenhut, now Wackenhut G4S as of 2010, it may
be better to have company information not
readily available to the public, as simple
internet search on the company currently
result a high caliber list of clients in politically
sensitive positions, including EXXON
Mobile, U.S. government security operations
in Pakistan), ane even rumors of helping the
CIA with politically unsavory activities in the
1960s.34 Furthermore, aside from high power
Figure 4-2
clients who value confidentiality, Wackenhut has a sizeable violent criminal

history, with a raft of cases for systemic rape and abuse of underage teenage girls
under their supervision in for profit correction facilities.35
That being said, privatizing security to questionable private contractors and
underpaying officers, is not the only RTD policy in conflict with working people
and the marginalized, as RTDs conception of public space is not entirely
inclusive. According to Chief Tarbert, bus stops and light rail platforms are public
space within the control and jurisdiction of RTD; but after careful examination of
RTD policies it appears Tarberts statement is inconsistent with RTD protocol, as
seen in figure 4-2, a picture taken at an RTD bus stop at Broadway and Colfax:
This is private property and is intended for the use of Regional
Transportation District (RTD) patrons only. Any acts of loitering, trespass
and/or other illegal activity will not be tolerated and are reported to local
authorities for the purpose of legal prosecution to the fullest extent of the
35 .htm

Valid Ticket or Pass
Within The Station ,
Figure 4-3
Figure 4-4
TV** -



S?#* '

\v- ; _ ...
>tJl l*#**f; **
Figure 4- 6
Basically stated, the images in Figure 4
2, in combination with 4-3 and 4-4, send
a direct message to the public that if you
havent paid RTD within the last 24
Figure 4-5
hours, you have no legal right to be on their property. Furthermore, RTD has
architectural redesigned some of its public spaces in an effort to better control
what types of activities are conducted. Shown in figure 4-5, the mens public

bathroom faculties at Civic Center station, has been designed with no doors to
discourage sexual activity, drug use, and or any other activity scrutinized by RTD,
to include bathing or doing laundry as indicated by figure 4-6. Further, as heard at
the 18th and California light rail platform, RTD utilizes loud classical music at this
outdoor stop to deter the homeless and youth from loitering. This strategy
operates under the theory that theses disorderly groups find the sound of classical
music disturbing and uncomfortable. An overt attempt to regulate Denvers
homeless/street population, the aforementioned rules and procedures easily fall in
to the revanchist category of patrollilng quality of life crimes or simply unwanted
behavior and demonstrate a rather narrow understanding of the concept of public
4.2.2 RTD, Quality of Life and zero tolerance policing
As per RTD polices about the homeless, indigent, and other deviant types, Chief
Tarbert remains true to the broken windows tradition noting that panhandling or
urinating on a bench, its a nuisance type thing more than a true law violation, you
can probably stretch it to make it disorderly conduct but the cop has to be there to
see it happen (interview). In response to this type of behavior, which he refers to
as quality of life crimes, as well as other broken windows crimes like fare evasion 36
http://ww w.nonprofi [ w=article&id= 10941 xlassi

and litter, Chief Tarbert drafted and implemented policy solutions to theses
problems. After Attacking fare evasion head on, RTD now boasts a fare evasion
rate of only 4%, largely due to Chief Tarberts new policy utilizing plain clothed
undercover DPD cops37 to conduct random fare checks (RTD internal document
board report). In addition to relentlessly patrolling fare evasion, Chief Tarberts
main policy success in combating undesirable behavior and incivility in public is
known as the RTD Service Suspension Program (SSP) (RTD internal document
service suspension list). A program introduced to remove disruptive passengers
from transit service as well as provide a method of behavior modification for
disruptive passengers, the SSP has a No Tolerance approach to criminal
activity and transit policy violations (interview). Passengers determined eligible
for SSP are served with an official letter of suspension from RTD, detailing the
reason for and length of service suspension, with a charge of criminal trespassing
levied against any suspended rider stepping foot on any RTD property, from a bus
stop to a light rail park and ride (interview). However, all crimes are not
considered equal in the eyes of RTD, with suspension details being determined on
a case by case basis according to the following criteria, cited from RTD SSP
primary documents:
37 When I inquired about how many of the 75 DPD cops on contract with RTD worked undercover,
I was quickly told that information could not be disclosed to the public.

1. RTD Transit policy violations that are not violations of State or
Municipal Law:
First Offense Warning Letter
Second Offense- 10-day suspension
Third Offense 30-day suspension
2. Part II crimes that result in arrest- (Crimes against property) such as
vandalism, fare evasion, etc.
First Offense 90-day suspension
Second Offense- 90 days to 1 year
Third Offense -1 year or permanent
3. Part I Crimes resulting in arrest (Crimes against person) such as
First Offense 1 year suspension
Second Offense Permanent (RTD internal document).
Commenting on the success of the SSP program, Chief Tarbert stated that
everything is much cleaner now, and everyone gets whats going on (interview).
With over 400 persons currently listed on the SSP, it is no surprise that RTD is
consistently rated one of Americas cleanest and safest transit systems. Effectively
implementing the Kelling and Wilson broken windows thesis, RTD officers
effectively quarantine members of the public threatening the quality of life.
However, aside from coercive means of asserting power (like undercover armed
officers, and the SSP), RTD also employs a range of other methods aimed at
controlling the public, evidence of what Michel Foucault would call Biopower.

4.2.3 The bio-political and militaristic functions of RTD
As presented
earlier in this thesis, the
experience of public
transportation, specifically
the bio-political control
functions of the state on
mass transit, can be
understood through the lens of Benthams Panopticon. The Panopticon operates
under the philosophy that the most
efficient way to make prisoners/transit
riders behave is by constructing an
environment conducive to self regulation,
an environment of ambient power,
absent of an actual authority figure. Figure 4 8
Implemented in the Panopticon via a large
central observation tower (with opaque windows), RTD transit security strategies
primarily utilize signs and omnipresent surveillance technology to prompt riders to
self regulate nearly every aspect of their lives. As shown in figures 4-7 and 4-8,

RTD makes an explicit effort to regulate legal biological functions like eating,
drinking, and playing music despite the fact that those behaviors are technically
legal in public. When asked about such polices, Chief Tarbert explained the RTD
official position that theses polices are more guidelines than actual enforceable
laws (interview).

Moreover, RTD has enjoyed major success in combating crime and other
undesirable behavior with the aid of modem video surveillance technology. With
roughly 10 thousand cameras spread throughout RTD, on buses, light rails, and
parking facilities, all monitored from a multimillion dollar video command center,
RTD literally has its eye on crime. According to a recent in-house report: In
2009, RTD conducted approximately 3,476 video investigations concerning
customer service complaints, ADA issues, Liability claims, and security issues
(RTD internal document board report). Further, emboldened by Department of
Homeland Security money, equipment, and grants, RTD uses the threat of
domestic terrorism to their full advantage by not only using allocated resources to
fight terrorism but also simultaneously combat quality of life crimes. Speaking to
his specialized training courtesy of DHS funds, it is clear from comments made by 38
38 A real source of pride for RTD, officer Tarbert noted that many other transit organizations are
not only jealous of their video command center but often requests tours when in town.

RTD police investigator John Perry, that RTD has been gradually militarizing over
the last decade.
Especially since 9/11 we (RTD) have moved into a new realm of
security awareness training. Im kind of a terrorism expert, Ive
been to several seminars and I have been over to Israel to look at
their system which is amazing..we brought a lot of ideas back
here, but mainly the idea that if you see something report it
With homeland security funding
available for education and
implementation of new
antiterrorist programs RTD put
theory to practice by creating new
security programs. Transit Watch,
an RTD program aimed at
preventing suspicious or
dangerous activity on RTD,
encourages riders to spy on each
other and phone in to RTD any
F J Figure 4-11
activity that seems out of the
ordinary, operating under the adage of if you see something, say something

(interview). However, Transit Watch criteria for questionable activity, as cited
from RTDs website is so vague that nearly anyone can be considered a threat
under the program:
A person or persons wearing clothes unsuitable for the time of year
Anything protruding in an unusual manner underneath a person's clothing
A person trying to blend in with surroundings, even though he or she appears out
of place
Excessive sweating(Transit Watch Flyer).
Seen in figure 4-9, an RTD Transit Watch Poster, complete with a all seeing
Orw ellian eye, is eerily reminiscent of programs under the Ministry for State
Security of the former German Democratic Republic.

Not limited
to Transit
Watch, the
of RTD takes
many forms
and continues
Figure 4-12 to evolve
with the help of DHS funding and federal law enforcement efforts. Seen in figure
4-10, the Visible Inter-mobile Emergency Prevention and Response (VIPER)
squad, is a DHS federal effort aimed at having a visible presence of power and
authority in urban transit centers deemed vulnerable to terrorism. A cooperative
law enforcement effort between DHS federal officers, the TSA, DPD, and RTD,
the main job of the VIPER squad is to stand around in public looking armed and
dangerous, so as to thwart any potential transit threats. Dressed in full paramilitary
gear, consisting of bullet proof vest, gun, taser, steel toe boots, secret service style
ear pieces, and cliche cop sunglasses, the VIPER squad rarely strikes the same
place twice, always choosing their public locations at random (Interview).
Ironically, while the VIPER squad is supposed to deter terrorists, making cities
across the country safer, it is also possible their presence actually makes
communities feel more vulnerable and paranoid to the possibility of something

very bad happening, as the general public is largely unaware of reasons why any
VIPER squad would show up where it does.
4.2.4 The social environment present on RTD
/ have never been so scared in my life, I though that felony man was going to hurt
me, I swear 1 will never ever take the bus again without you Adam
Abbie Driggs39, after riding the RTD 16 home on Cinqo de Mayo (5/5/2010)
As any veteran resident of Denver will tell you, the 15 or 16 bus line running down
Colfax is guaranteed to always be a
genuinely unique experience. Offering a
window into the lives of the working
class and marginalized communities of
Denver, the Colfax city bus is perhaps the
most racially and culturally diverse place
in the city. Single mothers, prison
parolees with no license, school children,
39 To really grasp the whole context behind the quote, it is important to note that Abbie is a b 23
hospitality major from Seattle who now works as an airline stewardess based out of Denver. A
young, blonde and attractive person, Abbie has a very sweet nature, is perky at times, and always
full of life and energy. However, unfolding before my very eyes on the 16 bus around 10 pm,
Abbies outgoing and friendly disposition was literally overtaken with fear, paranoia, and shock.
Having never ridden a Denver bus before Abbie was particularly alarmed by a large Hispanic man
who had on an ankle bracelet, speaking in a very loud street vernacular on his phone.

business persons, drug dealers, drunks, families, tourists, punks, and new
immigrants all utilize the bus in their daily interactions. Having been witness to a
variety of activities on RTD, including but not limited to fighting, public
intoxication, drug dealing, marriage counseling, flirting, vomiting, and cooking
classes,40 the bus can be seen as a public social space where the human spirit is
free to exhibit itself, relatively uninhibited.
In stark contrast to the more fluid and less predictable environment of the
predominately working class bus, the light rail is clearly intended for a higher class
of riders. This intent is demonstrated by the fact that 45% of RTD light rail riders
drive to their stations, coupled with ticket prices nearly double that of the bus
(RTD). Continually riding the light rail is an expensive prospect in comparison to
the bus. Both riders and drivers of the lower-income buses are left to essentially
fend for themselves in relation to rule enforcement, and are generally more dirty
and not as tightly watched by security as their light rail counterparts. The
environment of the RTD light rail is opposite of the bus in every way. A clean,
safe, and predictable environment, there are usually not to many surprises on the
light rail. Social activity is typically limited to reading and the occasional
conversation, the light rail is dreadfully boring in relation to the bus. Further, RTD
40 Once while riding in the back the bus the topic of alternative ways of cooking Ramen noodles
came up. Promptly, the bus patrons that had done hard time in jail or prison all began to share
about the many ways to make about anything with Ramen and a microwave. From pizza crust,
soup, and biscuits to salad toppings and cereal, I will never look at Ramen the same way.

random train sweeps, undercover officers riding the trains, and constant G4s
presence make the light rail a heavily policed and securitized environment, with
the bulk of fare enforcement violations being issued to light rail riders as bus
drivers regulate the fare of all who ride. In light of these facts and drastically
different socio-political transit environments, I argue that some aspects of modem
day class warfare can be seen in how these environments are policed with active
revanchist strategies, most active on the light rail.
4.2.5 Police profiling and RTD
Constantly on the wrong end of aggressive police activities, many persons of
color rightly feel vulnerable in relation to law enforcement as a result of revanchist
patterns, even when not having committed a crime. As a bi-racial rider of RTD,
who presents as a social dissident, I have personally felt profiled by undercover
fare enforcers, causing me to generally feel vulnerable in the presence of security.
As a case in point, in October of 2011, after boarding the light rail with my white
mother, at the 16th street mall, I experienced what can only be describe as
profiling. Choosing to sit at the end of the train, my mother and I chose seats
facing each other, when approximately 30 seconds into the ride 2 undercover
DPD officers walked from the opposite end of the train directly to me and asked
me for my fare, then proceeded to ask the rest of the train. Having inundated my
mother with theories of white supremacy, Revanchism, and class warfare over the
length of her journeys in Denver, usually to be met with comments of me being

paranoid and overly educated, my mother sharply responded to our train incident
with righteous indignation, talking about how her baby was just profiled.
However, profiling is nearly impossible to prove the process of establishing
proof of either race and/or economic class based profiling is a tangled challenge,
brilliantly described in the June 2010 issue of the EXBERLINER:
Some officers acknowledge that experience leads them to negative
generalizations, until black skin alone seems like sufficient grounds for
suspicion. Yet, the German federal government denies any kind of racial
profiling. In response to a question posed in the Bundestag in May 2008 by
Sevim Dagdelen, a Linkspartei MP, the government declared that racial
profiling is illegal because Germany participated in the World Conference
Against Racism. And since it is illegal, it doesnt happen. And since it
doesnt happen, there is no need to collect statistics. And since there are no
statistics available, there is no problem. Theres also a law against
stealing. Should we assume there are no thieves? laughs Biplab (Waldek
Flakin & Tobias Jochum).
Inspired by such analysis and by my own experiences as a transit rider, I again
went through the RTD chain of command following this incident to find answers.
Curious as to the demographics of the persons on the SSP list, so as to determine if
any profiling was taking place, I repeatedly asked RTD for specific information
relating to banned riders.
Continually told by Chief Tarbert that such information was not collected in the

manner I was asking for, I was once again forced to draft a CORA request,
detailing the information I was seeking. I requested any demographic information
(age, gender, race, or location of violation) associated with riders on the SSP, but I
was again told by Chief Tarbert that the information I wanted was either
unavailable or confidential. Enclosed in my CORA response packet accompanying
the letter from chief Tarbert was the most current SSP list with a little over 400
persons listed. However most of the document was redacted leaving only relevant
dates, and the type of offense, making the list less than useful. After looking over
the list the type of offensives committed on RTD are as varied as the people who
ride the system, running the full range of criminality from violent crimes like
assault to non violent drug and alcohol and or homelessness crimes. However,
after careful analysis it is clear that the vast majority of persons put on SSP are
there due to fare evasion. Considering that persons who rely on public transit as a
sole means of transportation, are disproportionately poor and of color, and are
more likely to fare evade simply due to frequency of use, I became concerned with
the possibility of class and race based profiling on RTD. Sympathetic to the plight
the single welfare mom, economically exploited migrant worker, former criminals,
and the range of other marginalized communities who depend on public transit, I
am less than satisfied with RTDs fare evasion policies. Operating on a three
strikes and your out rule, raiders are allowed two warning citations before being
ticketed, fined, and put on SSP. Understanding well that fares are a main source of

income for RTD I remain unconvinced that RTD cannot do more to help the
poor. For example figure 4-12 shows an RTD advertisement stating that active
duty military ride free, perhaps paying homage to the feds for all the grant money
by letting their service persons ride free, or just being patriotic RTD clearly has
structures built into place providing certain citizens fare benefits and others not.
Nonetheless, RTDs failure to provide any relevant data with which to research
profiling, put me in a methodological crisis of sorts, forcing me to create my own
data by means of conducting a ground level survey of RTD riders.
4.2.6 RTD transit survey of perceptions and experience with RTD security
Data weak points and flaws
Had RTD been cooperative in providing the simple demographic data requested at
the onset of this research, I would not have been in the position of needing to
gather the data personally. While I can attest that this survey was conducted with
the highest level of integrity, there remains factors outside of my control that
impacted my research, mainly the location, the community and transit specific
issues. While Denver is a large city with an ever growing transit system, it still
pales in comparison to the cities cited in most of the zero tolerance, quality of life,
and Revanchist literature, mainly New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. As
Denver has Nowhere near the levels of diversity, immigration and general
population of the mega cites, utilizing Denver as a case study means that

theoretical lessons of this thesis are being applied on a much smaller scale, often
times wielding diminished results.
Aside from the drawbacks of size, the dynamic of the community I am
attempting to research are particularly complicated. Young black or Latino
persons, pointed out by the literature to be particularly vulnerably to quality of life
and zero tolerance policing policies, are in general wary of authority and
dismissive of college students conducting public transit surveys. While conducting
this survey, I continually encountered this problem with young black urban men
and women in particular who would not give me the time of day simply due to the
fact that they did not understand I was not working for RTD, the police or anyone
else who could get them in trouble. However, one time in particular after
discovering the nature of my survey, a group of young urban minority males,
openly engaged in a marijuana drug trade at the comer of Broadway and Colfax,
lined up to take my survey because they truly felt like their voices were going to
be heard free from persecution and or judgment. But on the whole, the target
audience of zero tolerance policing remained wary of my survey and as a result are
arguably underrepresented in the data.
Further, because some questions asked for persons to admit having been in
contact or cited by RTD, the resulting data does not reflect the citations that
persons failed to disclose, as ( 99% of survey respondents only admit to being
cited for fare evasion, but citations may be underreported). In addition, many

riders are turned off when they discover the survey is about racial profiling, often
times becoming very defensive, and uneasy while discussing the topic. Finally,
surveying public transportation riders in general can be a hassle as time place and
manner are very restrictive. Passengers only survey before boarding transportation,
not while riding or after exiting, as they are already at their destination they do not
wish to be held up, and this pattern also made survey-gathering difficult.
4.2.7 presentation of survey data and analysis.
As depicted in Tables 1 and 2 there is statistical evidence to show the younger you
are the higher your risk of getting a citation, with same being said for male riders.
Arguably, from the perspective of RTD security, rambunctious youth and men in
general are notorious for getting more tickets than the average person or woman
and the data only reveals these painfully obvious facts. Figure 1 and 2 also show
that my statistical model works by once again proving something already
considered fact by manynamely that young males tend to be profiled by
police. Further, figure 3 also shows that as people get older not only do their
citation levels fall but their overall

Age v Citation
1 25.0%
£ 20.0%
5 15.0%
~ 10.0%
18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 1 56-65
cited 31.8% 19.2% 19.0% 14.8% .. J 0.0%
opinion of transit police improves. Also, as might be expected, when race is
Table 4.1
considered, minorities hold stronger negative opinions towards transit police,
possibly due to disproportionate citations. When comparing the percentage of
riders cited across racial

lines the most striking comparison can be found in table 4. On average African-
American citizens are cited at 15% higher rates than their white counterparts.
Gender v Ciatations
30.0% I--
25.0% -
20.0% -^r-
0 15.0%
' a Cited
Male female
Table 4.2
Citation v Black and White
Table 4.3

A 15% difference may not be considered large enough to levy a charge of racial
profiling against RTD, however in combination with other data and literature
review presented here, it is clear that profiling is happening.
Realizing that race-based profiling is hardly the only form of profiling
Table 4.4
occurring, this survey also contains data relevant to the in house profiling done
after collecting surveys. In-house profiling was completed in the following way:
Upon completion of a survey and spending roughly 3 minutes with a rider, I would
numerical code their survey to match one of many subjective social and class
labels previously determined (give examples). The 16 subjective categories I chose
were meant to cover all swaths of Denver including skater, student, blue collar,

white collar, urban white collar, and so on with all determinations being based on
aesthetic cues. For example clothing brand, styling, condition, all play a role in
determining a persons status as well as other indicators like jewelry, and prison
tattoos. As Seen in table 5, it is clear that profiling in RTD is being conducted on
In house profile v citation
yes 50.0%l 19.40
41.67 11.11 :23.96
20.00 16.67(46.34
homeless / addicts
blue collar / working class
white collar
counter cultural
class elite
college student
high school student
Table 4.5
the basis of riders public presentation, with officers essentially disproportionately
citing persons assumed to be deviant, mainly the categories of persons who present
as homeless/addict, countercultural, and or urban.41
4.2.8- Survey and case study conclusion
41 For this survey urban is used in the broad sense to describe someone who appears to be working-
class but clearly with a hardened edge, a word often used to describe the young gangster or gang

The results of my survey provide statistical evidence that, while overt race and
class based profiling on RTD may be limited, the profiling of political culture and
different ways of presenting oneself in public is alive and well.
5. Conclusion
When Karl Marx noted his disdain for the idiocy of rural life (Mitchell
2003, pg. 18) he meant to describe the monotony, isolation, and homogeneity of
life away from the city. Conversely, due to its high density and reputation as a
refuge for deviant social elements such as counter-cultural communities,
immigrants, gays, artists, political dissidents and the sexually liberated, cites are

very heterogeneous, guaranteeing inhabitants exposure to difference42 (Mitchell,
2003). Exploding in the 1960s US cites were booming with openness and
diversity in ways never seen before. Landmark supreme court cases like
Papachristou v. Jacksonville (1972) highlighted that vagrancy laws were written
two vague and that people essential have a right to be offensive or even crazy in
public. However, as argued by this thesis the liberal excess of the I960 and 70s
are what fuels the revanchist policing of the city sine the election of Ronald in
1980. Simultaneously coming of age around the same time as neoliberalism zero
tolerance and quality of life policing stood in direct repudiation to the idea of
public space being a place for everyone. Finally, after 9/11 the government
increased funding for securitization of public transit, providing transit authorities
more political power than ever before and a full proof alibi blaming all mishaps on
the need to keep the homeland safe. In the end it is clear that public transportation
use will only increase, as a recent MSNBC article states that the preferred mode of
travel for the largest demographic in the country, the millennials is indeed public
transportation. That being said, it is important that this generation fight for to
ensure that the site of public transpiration remains public free from state scrutiny.
As indicated by the survey results and observations of the system over the last 18
months, it is clear that RTD, as well as other major transit systems, have systemic
problems of structural violence and cultural prejudice. And although in the face of
42 The city is a place where difference lives (Mitchell 2003, pg 18).

the DHS, FBI, CIA, NSA, TSA, and local transit authorities prospects for brining
about progressive change seem slim at best. But it is important to remember the
critical lesson learned put forth in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negris Multitude,
that in every instance of the state exercising political power and making life even
harder, the state also simultaneously creates a space for resistance. There is always
a crack, a flaw, or an inconsistency to be exploited, to push back against the
system in solidarity with our fellow citizens and transit riders. Experiencing this
phenomenon several times over the course of my study I remain fully confidant in
the capabilities of the social apparatus of public transportation to produce the
impetus for change so badly needed. For example despite attempts to subjugate
populations and control their bodily functions, the site of public transportation
remains a vibrant place where ex-cons share ramen noodle recipes, mother trade
baby care techniques, teenagers trade love stories, and the elderly are respected, all
in the face of heavy state action. Looking towards the future, it is imperative that
the country not loose yet another social space to the forces of neoliberalism and
the military industrial complex, especially not a space as beautiful, diverse, and
vibrant, as the spaces of public transportation citizens take everyday.

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