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Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves…
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Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

by Taras Grescoe

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This is a highly relevant book for the 21st century. As the population of cities increases and transportation systems start to buckle under the strain of these additional people, it is important to find ways to move them around more effectively and reduce dependence on the automobile. Taras Grescoe, a resident of Montreal, travels around the world to study examples of effective public transit and show multiple solutions: bus rapid transit, subways, light rail, and so on. From Paris to Moscow, from Philadelphia to Montreal, from Tokyo to Toronto, we see cities that have done it right from the start, some that have suffered damage from the automobile craze and have started to repair it, and some that are almost a lost cause or that have lost their way.

On a personal level, I greatly enjoyed this book and its validation of the public-transit culture. Not everyone has the ability or inclination to drive, and it's important to provide them with an efficient means of getting around. This book emphasizes the importance of managing transit at a regional level, with a long-term focus, and duplicating the "anywhere to anywhere" mobility provided by cars. It's all very well to have an efficient service bringing people from the suburbs to downtown and back again during peak times, but riders should also be able to get from one suburb to another easily.

In addition to public transit, Grescoe also discusses cycling infrastructure. Copenhagen is one city where cycling is safe, easy and very widely practised, because the infrastructure is in place to get cyclists where they want to go, instead of funnelling them off into parks and quiet areas (what's the use of a bike path in the middle of nowhere if you're trying to bike to work downtown?) It also helps that, in the winter, the snowplows tend the bike paths first.

Grescoe's writing style is smooth and efficient like a high-speed train. The book clacks along merrily, whisking you to various destinations and through a variety of interviews and statistics. Each chapter discusses a particular city, so it can be read easily in chunks, although I found it very hard to put down once I got started. I would definitely recommend this for anyone who is interested in urban planning, public transit, or those who live in and love the city. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Nov 10, 2013 |
I have been excited to read this book for the past year, and now that I have finally gotten around to it, it is something of a disappointment. Personally, I prefer to live close to city centers with good public transit; I have been happily living in such a place for the past several years. However, I was put off by the author's bias to city living. He seemed just as inflexible as the people who believe everyone should live in suburbs, work from home, and drive everywhere else. The fact that he seems so firmly set on subways and trains doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I understand that buses don't really do the enviroment any favors, but to rid all cities of buses in favor of subways and trains seems expensive, impractical, and inconvenient. (Although, like the author, I fell in love with the Paris metro when I was 18. It has spoiled me for any other public transit system. I would LOVE to have one just like it in my city!)
I so wanted to like this book, and was excited to read it, hoping to get ideas of how to better utilize public transit, but while I agreed with a lot of the author's thoughts on the matter, I just couldn't get past his one-sidedness. (Is that a term? It is now) ( )
  lisan. | Oct 4, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is fascinating, but I have trouble focusing on it for longer than a few pages, perhaps because the writing style is dry. I'll finish it someday!
  kgodey | Sep 12, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am somewhat late in reviewing this book and feel that I have litter to add to the excellent reviews written by other members. I found the book interesting, especially in its discussion of the history of suburban development and the ways in which different transit systems have contributed to the growth of their urban areas. The discussion of failures of certain types of system, such as the underutilized light rail in Phoenix, Arizona and of the success of cities such as Copenhagen undoubtedly provide guidance for those who would like to promote better transit. My only caveat is that the promotion of transit infrastructure development assumes continued economic growth and availability of materials, which will be in shorter supply as resources are exhausted. Oil is not the only resource that has or will soon reach peak production and technologically advanced systems with computerized controls, etc. may run into a shortage of the rare metals essential to modern electronics.
  ritaer | Dec 9, 2012 |
A bit repetitive and obsessed with US cities, but readable. The annotated bibliography can be useful. Use of figures is a bit journalistic, i.e. decontextualized, lacking normalization factors, not data-dense. ( )
  alv | Oct 21, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
[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
added by John_Vaughan | editKirkus (Feb 1, 2012)
 
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Epigraph
Any man of forty who still rides the metro is a loser. -- Salvador Dali
A man who, beyond the age of twenty-six, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure. -- Margaret Thatcher
New York, New York, it's a wonderful town! The Bronx is up and the Battery's down, The people ride in a hole in the ground... -- On the Town, 1949
I used to like this town...Hollywood was a bunch of frame houses on the inter-urban line. Los Angeles was just a big, dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good-hearted and peaceful. It had the climate they just yap about now. People used to sleep out on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America. It wasn't that, but it wasn't a neon-lighted slum, either. -- Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister, 1949
This nation has achieved a paradoxical and inexplicable condition: suburban greatness. -- David Brooks, The Atlantic, 2002
Dedication
To Erin, and whatever our future might hold
To Desmond, who arrived, unexpectedly, after his parents rode the 80 bus to the hospital for a routine ultrasound.
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For first-time car buyers on the floor of the Shanghai Auto Show, the future looks bright, if not downright dazzling.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805091734, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:58 -0400)

"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"--""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, Bogot,̀ 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 ient, affordable, and sustainable urban transportation--and better city living--for all"--… (more)

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