Book Review: Straphanger – Taras Grescoe [TSS]

Title: Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile
Author: Taras Grescoe
ISBN: 9780805091731
Pages: 336
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Times Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel, Social/Psychological
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

In his latest book, Taras Grescoe takes on the reputation of public transportation.  While it’s conventionally viewed as a dirty last resort, Grescoe argues that a revolution in public transit is approaching.  He examines public transportation systems in cities in the US and around the world to see if creating sustainable and affordable transit is an achievable goal.

Review:

Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile is many different things rolled up into one neat, easy-to-read package.  It’s a bit of a memoir, exploring Grescoe’s existence as a car-free human being.  It’s a travelogue of sorts, examining different cities, countries, and cultures and how they have reacted to the demands of public transportation.  And it’s a study of urban planning and culture, looking closely at the history of public transportation in the United States.

The book is divided up into different chapters, based on the city Grescoe is currently visiting.  His adventures in New York City are easy to predict – he delivers the history of one of the most-used public transportation systems in the world.  But he also discusses challenges facing the overtaxed system, such as expansion, maintenance, and profitability.  But then, Grescoe moves on to a place like Los Angeles, where the idea of public transit is almost laughable.  He discusses failed attempts at creating some sort of mass transportation and makes it clear as long as city regulations are too car-friendly (such as mandating parking spaces for every building), public transit will never take off.

Grescoe’s writing is clear and very easy to read.  His style is engaging and will make readers want to pay attention and take note of what he is saying.  Because the book is divided into many different chapters, each its own case study, it makes it easy to read this book in bits and pieces.  Indeed, that may be the best approach, as Grescoe packs a lot of wisdom and information into each of his chapters, and it’s worth reflecting on each before moving to the next.

If you are at all interested in urban culture, Straphanger is a must-read.  It’s a fascinating mix of how history, politics, and culture have affected the development of mass transit.  While this may seem like a boring subject, Grescoe makes it very interesting.  In the end, it may make you rethink your policy on utilizing the public transportation in your own city.

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Comments

  1. Ooh, added to my wishlist. I love books about city design!

  2. Ooh, added to my wishlist. I love books about city design!

  3. I am curious to know if this book mentions the public transit system in Salt Lake City. I really love the system — I use it almost daily and have found it much more effective than systems in other, larger cities.

  4. I am curious to know if this book mentions the public transit system in Salt Lake City. I really love the system — I use it almost daily and have found it much more effective than systems in other, larger cities.

  5. When I lived in Miami, the public transportation system was awesome, with buses, trams, and a monorail that went all over the city. I was surprised to come to Orlando and find out that there are virtually no buses, and that there is very little public transportation. It’s hard to get around here, but in Miami, I lived without a car for many years, and was able to get around just fine. I clearly need to read this book!

  6. When I lived in Miami, the public transportation system was awesome, with buses, trams, and a monorail that went all over the city. I was surprised to come to Orlando and find out that there are virtually no buses, and that there is very little public transportation. It’s hard to get around here, but in Miami, I lived without a car for many years, and was able to get around just fine. I clearly need to read this book!

  7. Loraine Branan says:

    I am headed to NYC soon, and looking for some info on getting around the city without renting a car. So this book looks like it might be a great read for me! I have a book called Guide 365 New York City by Monica DiNatale, and she lists many places and a few ways on how to get there on public transit. So as I look to make this trip the best by getting to eat at all the great places and see all the sites I need to see! DiNatale’s book is great, I recommend it if anyone plans a trip, (monicadinatale.com). Thanks for this review!

  8. Brandie Mcnemar says:

    Loraine you have the wrong link, I found that 365guidenyc.com is the proper one. The other is the author’s site I think. That book is awesome by the way, just the parts on Times Square, I never knew there were so many cheaper places to get a great bite to eat!

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