Straphanger is a smart bit of urban writing from Taras Grescoe, who collects transit systems like tourists collect snow globes. Transit-map geeks like me need no longer feel alone. Grescoe’s travels from Shanghai to Montreal unearthing unique social, historical, and political stories about how urban and suburban environments develop transit systems. From what could have been in Los Angeles, to the propaganda-driven architectural beauty of the Moscow Metro, Grescoe identifies stable political and financial will as the cornerstone of good transit. So, while politics may scuttle Bogotá’s otherwise ingenious quick-fix bus solution, look to Toronto for a true basket case. Grescoe’s take on Toronto is overly political for my taste compared to his practical approach in other chapters, but he produces warnings from which all Canadian cities can learn – after, of course, enjoying a little schadenfreude. Straphanger (the title immediately resonates with transit riders) is both study and prescription – a great read for the commute that should inspire straphangers everywhere to demand better.
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