This study looks into the horizontal (bottom-up) and vertical (top-down) power structures that lead to successful public transportation systems. Horizontal power, consisting of community and grassroots organizations, is much different than vertical power, made up of city, state, federal, and private actors with greater influence on higher decision-making levels. In order to determine which structure of power is most important for successful transportation policy, three cities (Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland) were chosen due to their similar geographic location, related histories, and varying extent of transit systems; the transportation systems were measured to gauge the success of their systems, defined through three measures: the extent, equitability of service in terms of race and income, and financial sustainability of the systems. Seven variables were then identified and measured for each city and labeled favorable or unfavorable for successful public transit policy. The results found that vertical coalition building and access to vertical funding were the most important variables contributing to successful transit policy, with horizontal coalition building and horizontal opposition groups having a moderate impact. These findings support the beliefs held by prominent authors Hamilton et al. and Weir et al. (discussed in Chapter Two: Literature Review) that vertical power is needed for successful transportation policy creation, while horizontal power simply contributes, to an extent.


Moskowitz, Eric


Urban Studies


Urban Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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