Taras Grescoe rides the rails all over the world and makes an elegant and impassioned case for the imminent end of car culture and the coming transportation revolution
"I am proud to call myself a straphanger," writes Taras Grescoe. 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.
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 profiles public transportation here and abroad, highlighting 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.
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
Taras Grescoe discusses Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile, on The Leonard Lopate Show.
“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
[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
"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
Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile