Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mass Transit Workers, Urban Publics, and the Politics of Time in San Francisco


San Francisco’s public transportation system is the slowest major urban transit system in the United States and has one of the worst on-time performance rates. This paper examines how these problems with time—slowness and lateness—are constructed in public discourse and mobilized in labor disputes with the drivers who operate the transit system. Demands for faster moving and more timely transit lead to the implementation and enforcement of impossible-to-meet schedules, and political economic logics configure fault for the time problems in the work practices and work ethics of the transit drivers. Disputes about the transit system’s slow speeds and lateness intensify political opposition between public workers and the publics they serve, and reveal shifting conceptions of the public good. I argue that morally infused understandings of time and timeliness enable a neoliberal remaking of the transit system, its workers, and its publics.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View