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Straphanger Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

Taras Grescoe

Times Books




336 Pages


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The perception of public transportation in America is often unflattering—a squalid last resort for those with one too many drunk-driving charges, too poor to afford insurance, or too decrepit to get behind the wheel of a car. Indeed, a century of auto-centric culture and city planning has left most of the country with public transportation that is underfunded, ill maintained, and ill conceived. But as the demand for petroleum is fast outpacing the world's supply, a revolution in transportation is under way.

Taras Grescoe explores the ascendance of the straphangers—the growing number of people who rely on public transportation to go about the business of their daily lives. On a journey that takes him around the world—from New York to Moscow, Paris, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Bogotá, Phoenix, Portland, Vancouver, and Philadelphia—Grescoe gets the inside story on the world's great transit systems, going beneath the streets to see subway tunnels being dug, boarding state-of-the-art streetcars, and hopping on high-speed trains. As he profiles public transportation here and abroad, he highlights the people and ideas that may help undo the damage that car-centric planning has done to our cities and create convenient, affordable, and sustainable urban transportation—and better city living—for all. With a compelling mix of solid historical research and up-to-the-minute reportage, Straphanger makes an elegant and impassioned case for the imminent end of car culture and the coming transportation revolution.


Praise for Straphanger

“All the cities we admire most in the world—the places young people want to live—boast great public transit systems or are in the process of building them. Taras Grescoe explains why: there's nothing more civilized than a great subway, or a bus rapid transit system, or a squad of ferries, or any of the other ways we've learned to move ourselves around urban space. As this splendid account makes clear, a car isn't liberation: not needing a car is liberation!”—Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"I was browsing through Straphanger when I came upon a chapter on Tokyo, a city I know pretty well. I soon discovered that Taras Grescoe knows far more than I about the design and infrastructure of that immense megalopolis—and he explains it all in a clear and engaging way. He does the same for a dozen cities around the world, and proves convincingly that cities work best when they treat the private car as an unneeded intruder."—T. R. Reid, author of The United States of Europe 
"[Straphanger] is rife with bits of interesting trivia, and it almost reads like a travelogue as the author revels in the wonders of his diverse destinations. With a smooth, accessible narrative style…each chapter is packed with important information . . . A captivating, convincing case for car-free—or at least car-reduced—cities.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Entertaining and illuminating . . . Grescoe's adventurous, first-person inspection of the world's latest high-tech transit systems keeps readers engaged while underscoring the importance of developing greener forms of transportation."—Library Journal
"Grescoe presents a strong and timely argument for moving metropolitan motorists away from their cars."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Any time we don't have crowding during rush hour, there'll be a receiver sitting in the mayor's chair and New York will be a ghost town. Why, they talk about the rush hour and the crash and noise. Why, listen, don't you see that's the proof of our life and vitality? Why, why, that is New York City!
--Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, 1943

1. The Subway that Time Forgot

New York, New York

Something impossibly big and powerful was moving beneath the city.

In a portable office at a construction site in Chelsea, I could already sense its presence as a low rumbling rising through

Read the full excerpt



  • Taras Grescoe on The Leonard Lopate Show

    Taras Grescoe discusses Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile, on The Leonard Lopate Show.



  • Taras Grescoe

  • Taras Grescoe is the award-winning author of four books and countless articles focusing on world travel. He's written for The New York Times, The Times (London), Wired, the Chicago Tribune Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. He currently lives in Montreal. He has never owned a car.

  • Taras Grescoe Erin Churchill
    Taras Grescoe