In Hong Kong, Santiago, and New York City, protesters have disrupted, delayed, or even boycotted subways.

In acts of civic resistance, protesters have taken up space in stations, sometimes disrupting or delaying services. And since transit systems are often seen as an extension of local government and of the officials that run them, they’ve become a ripe setting for civil disobedience.

For people in major metropolitan areas, transit systems are vital, connecting them to jobs, schools, and social communities. They’re largely perceived as a public service, funded by taxpayer money and fares although owned and operated — either partially or completely — by the government.

And since transit systems are an extension of the local government, it’s fair to assume that specific policies (like fares, increased policing, or service hours) reflect the priorities of the state.

Andra Chastain.

As Andra B. Chastain, an assistant professor of history at Washington State University, writes in her explanation of how the metro system is a microcosm of Chile: “Transportation is not just about having a well-run system from the standpoint of economists or engineers, but about people’s basic dignity.”

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