straphanger

I’ve just finished reading an incredibly inspiring journey around the world of public transport called ‘Straphanger‘ by Taras Grescoe.

In 300 enjoyable and readable pages Grescoe takes on a tour of cities which have either found good quality mass transit solutions or completely failed to find adequate mass transit, and instead become freeway deserts criss crossed by eightlane expanses of often dangerous asphalt.

And sometimes he even finds glimpses of hope in the least promising of cities. LA for instance which in the last few years has invested in good quality light rail and even in residential hubs deliberately built alongside railway stations an approach which isn’t that common anywhere in the US.

Perhaps unsurprisingly German suburbs and the Danish capital seem to have established the some of the most inspiring combinations of bikes, buses, trains, and trams; closely followed by Paris.

However the most interesting story for me, was from Bogota, where a couple of visionary if sometimes eccentric mayors have with relatively little investment created a ‘bus rapid transit’ system which functions more like a train line but for a fraction of the cost, and have managed to introduce the car free days which the city has become famous for.

It’s a great book if you are interested in public transport policy, or if you are looking for ideas for building and organising stronger and more sustainable communities.

It certainly made me think about the role public transport plays in the sort of cities, towns, and countryside I would like to see in the UK.

If we want to see livable, intergrated, walkable, and nice to visit communities we need to think about the role transit, planning, and cars play in helping or not helping that.

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