Saving Our Cities and Ourselves From the Automobile

Book - 2012
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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.

Publisher: New York : Times Books, 2012.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780805091731
Branch Call Number: 388.4 GRESCOE
Characteristics: x, 322 pages ; 24 cm.


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Apr 07, 2018

I have to disagree with the below comment that describes this as travel advocacy masquerading as a travel book. It's actually the opposite. And his thesis is right there in the title! Canadian Taras Grescoe, who claims he's never owned a car, travels to cities around the world to investigate their public transit systems (he's a big fan of trains) and the impact cars have had on cities. He's globetrotting includes Tokyo, which he thinks has the best transit of any major city, Copenhagen, Bogota, New York, and our fair Portland. Like many public transit advocates, he can be a little preachy, but there's no ignoring his argument or the damage that roads and cars have done. The imperial city planner Robert Moses emerges as the villain of the piece, but he has harsh assessments of iconic architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier too. You might also like "The Geography of Nowhere."

Apr 01, 2016

I was excited to read this book. For one, I have spent time in all but two of the places described(and live in one). Also, though I like cars, live to ride motorcycles, I really love using an efficient rail system. Northern Europe's phenomenal rail system got me home in 2010 when a volcano grounded all flights in Europe. I trust trains.

Grescoe's exclusive insider's tour into some of the world's greatest transportation system was an enjoyable journey. As a travel book, it will enhance my future visits to those places. I liked that, even if I didn't agree with a lot of what he says about the cities. Unfortunately the book starts off with a dark cloud that then hung over every city.

The introduction to Straphanger ruined the entire book for me. Grescoe makes a very negative stance on cars which I disagreed with, then read the rest of the book trying to understand. He never explains himself. Instead he goes off on a train-loving tangent. He even admits to needing a car occasionally.

Sitting back after completing Straphanger, I can only call it for what it is: non-fiction that does not tell you what it says it is going to tell you. It's a travel book masquerading as transit advocacy.

Vivian Unger May 25, 2013

A thorough and fascinating look some of the best--and worst--public transportation in cities the world over. Includes important information on how to improve public transportation and biking infrastructure and discourage car-driving.

Mar 11, 2013

The book's subtitle is "Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile" but Mr. Grescoe does not really get to any positive conclusions. Instead this book consists of many rambling stories with a few good points. I think it would be a very good read if it were edited from 300 pages down to about 100.

Mar 02, 2013; gives walk score for a community.

This is a general overview of a few public transit systems in Canada, USA, Europe and Asia. The author dos a fair job of showing how the new interest in public transit is playing out in progressive communities and how (Toronto) some a failing miserably, while others (Vancouver) have exponential advantages thanks to their public transit. A good read for those seeking some understanding of the issues and a way to draw back the curtain of ignorance that pits the lowly automobile against the forces of community, progress, and civilization.

Dec 03, 2012

Should be read by every Austinite who cares about our city's quality of life and how it can be enhanced by rapid transit. The book covers the transit systems of about a dozen world cities: the good, the bad, and the downright awful. Austin is poised to make some important choices. Informed citizens can push us toward being a city with a great transit system and for a price we can afford.

Sep 17, 2012

Reading this book felt like taking a holiday while studying up on good urban planning. Grescoe is not meant to be an expert, only a transit enthusiast who appreciates systems that work and what they can do for our cities. Very interesting, enjoyable, and eye-opening. I am definitely seeing public transit and the automobile in new ways.


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