Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lynn Is A Proud and Happy Straphanger. Are You?

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.

Lynn says:
"New to our Bargain section is a terrific read by Taras Grescoe: Straphanger. As a 'straphanger' myself (Grescoe's term for someone who gets around their city primarily by public transportation), I have to say he really nails it on the state of mass transit in major cities around the globe... getting into detail reminiscent of Alan Weismann in The World Without Us when exploring mass transit's history and current permutations in cities like Paris, NYC, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Shanghai, Tokyo and his hometown, Montreal. This book is a gem for anyone interested in better understanding how the private car gone global has driven culture and economics since its advent and a well-argued case in favor of transitioning to mass-transit.

Just one illustrative factoid for you: In 2010 there was a traffic jam extending for 60 miles that lasted 10 solid days outside of Beijing, China. To motivate yourself to dust off that bus pass or dig into your spare change to drop some coins on a city bus and feel good about not circling around and around for parking on your next errand, try Straphanger. Whether or not it liberates your thinking from the idea that one cannot live without a private car or not, you're in for an entertaining look at the variety of ways we humans get around and how that activity monopolized by the combustion engine may be outliving its usefulness."

Lynn also writes reviews for The Denver Voice.  Learn more about them HERE.

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