Jeffrey's Reviews > Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
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's review
Apr 04, 12

liked it
bookshelves: first-reads, non-fiction, read-in-2012
Read from March 12 to April 03, 2012 , read count: 1

I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Taras Grescoe is a lifelong urbanist and views transportation as fundamental to the formation of the modern city. Visiting locations both in North America and abroad, Grescoe advocates strong public transportation infrastructure as the key element to long term health and growth.

While cars dominate major American metropoli like Phoenix, European and Asian cities have developed significant rail infrastructure that obviates the need to own an individual car. This, in turn, allows for increased density, which enables populations large enough to sustain local businesses. Increased economic opportunity increases the attractiveness of the area to outsiders and further encourages similar development and so on.

Grescoe does not advocate that everyone should live this way, rather he advocates that if cities wish to survive, they need to adopt this structure. Furthermore, expanding this structure to enable non-car commuting from the suburbs will, in the long run, further encourage the kind of community that is more dense, less car based, and more sustainable in the long run. He makes a convincing argument.

But I will note, and at this point I should disclose I'm a suburban commuter who rides light rail transit each weekday, that despite the opportunities presented in here. Despite the amount to which I agree with him, I couldn't get excited about reading this book. While I enjoyed the passages I read, the history of Japan's rail lines, the development of the bus system in Bogota, the economic desolation that is Phoenix, I was never eager to turn back to this book after I set it aside because, for example, I got off the light rail to finish my transit home. I'm not sure why the book didn't enthuse me more, this should be right up my alley, but it never really gripped my attention.

There are some positive notes to take away from this, and I suspect readers who are mildly interested but unexposed to the field will find this an excellent primer. But I don't think I can sit here and say "Here read this if you want to know why I think there needs to be more public transit". I don't think it'll sell anyone on the idea.


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Reading Progress

03/13/2012 page 33
10.0% "The history of NYC Public Transit. It's a shame to think of what Baltimore could have been with better urban planning and less corrupt practices."
03/16/2012 page 47
14.0% "Robert Moses and the destruction of New York City"
03/19/2012 page 89
26.0% "On the disaster that is Phoenix, Arizona"
03/20/2012 page 107
32.0% "On the survival of Paris"
03/22/2012 page 122
36.0% "Still in Paris. I'm finding it entertaining while I'm reading it, but I keep letting myself be distracted by other things."
03/26/2012 page 161
48.0% "Kinda want to go to bike-friendly Copenhagen"
03/27/2012 page 187
56.0% "The masters of rail transport, Japan."
03/29/2012 page 217
65.0% "The revitalization of Bogota"
03/30/2012 page 251
75.0% "Portland, Vancouver, and the Northwest's concept of transportation. Also, libertarians are idiots."
04/03/2012 page 291
87.0% "This book has taken way too long to read"

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