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Reading: Human Transit by Jarrett Walker & Straphanger by Taras Grescoe

Two books arrived recently, both on transit, specifically now how transit can improve our lives: Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives by Jarrett Walker and Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile by Taras Grescoe. Given that I’d sold my car over a month ago both books piqued peaked my interest.

Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives:

Walker takes complicated and often technical subjects and presents them to the reader in layman’s terms.

The table of contents shows the topics covered:

  1. What Transit is, and Does
  2. What Makes Transit Useful? Seven Demands and How Transit Serves Them
  3. Five Paths to Confusion
  4. Lines, Loops, and Longing
  5. Touching the City: Stops and Stations
  6. Peak or All Day?
  7. Frequency is Freedom
  8. The Obstacle Course: Speed, Delay, and Reliability
  9. Density Distractions
  10. Ridership or Coverage: The Challenge of Service Allocation
  11. Can Fares be Fair?
  12. Connections or Complexity?
  13. From Connections to Networks, to Places
  14. Be on the Way! Transit Implications of Location Choice
  15. On the Boulevard
  16. Take the Long View

Walker doesn’t offer the solutions, he asks the questions to get us to determine what  we need from our transit system:

This book aims to give you a grasp of how transit works as an urban mobility tool and how it fits into the larger challenge of urban transportation. This is not a course designed to make you a qualified transit planner, though some professionals will benefit from it. My goal is simply to give you the confidence to form and advocate clear opinions about what kind of transit you want and how that can help create the kind of city you want.

I can tell this book will be a valuable resource for me. Read the blog here and purchase here ($35 softcover)

Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

Grescoe takes a different, but valuable, approach to transit. Examples from numerous cities in North America and the entire world are examined.

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. (MacMillan)

Not sure yet how lessons learned in other cities will apply to St. Louis but such knowledge is important to quality solutions.

Final thoughts

Both books reference a quote commonly attributed to Margaret Thatcher: “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.” 

It appears that the quote was misattributed to Thatcher:

Attributed to her in Commons debates, 2003-07-02, column 407 and Commons debates, 2004-06-15 column 697. According to a letter to the Daily Telegraph by Alistair Cooke on 2 November 2006, this sentiment originated with Loelia Ponsonby, one of the wives of 2nd Duke of Westminster who said “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life”. In a letter published the next day, also in the Daily Telegraph, Hugo Vickers claims Loelia Ponsonby admitted to him that she had borrowed it from Brian Howard. There is no solid evidence that Margaret Thatcher ever quoted this statement with approval, or indeed shared the sentiment. (Wikiquote)

Who spoke the words isn’t as important as the general agreement of much of the world with this view.

I’m glad to have these two books in my library.

– Steve Patterson


Reading: St. Louis Parks by NiNi Harris and Esley Hamilton

May 19, 2012 Books, Featured, Parks 3 Comments

The St. Louis region is home to many great parks and now historians (and personal friends) NiNi Harris and Esley Hamilton have collaborated on a book about parks in St. Louis city & county, respectively. The title, appropriately enough, St. Louis Parks.

ABOVE: Cover of the new hardcover book from Reedy Press, click image for publisher's page

The forward is by Peter H. Raven and the 164 page book is filled with beautiful images by photographers  Mark Abeln and Steve Tiemann.

ABOVE: Image of Fairgrounds Park by Mark Abeln

The wealth of knowledge that both Harris & Hamilton have shared is overwhelming. NiNi Harris shared this thought with me:

I love showing visitors to St. Louis around our City Parks. They are always awed by the beauty of our parks. And they are wowed by the number of parks, the variety of sizes from pocket parks to enormous Forest Park, from pedestrian parks to driving parks, from squares to linear parks. Hopefully, this book can help more people discover and enjoy this remarkable treasure.

Look for it in the library or your local bookstore.

– Steve Patterson


Readers On Library Use

May 16, 2012 Books, Featured Comments Off on Readers On Library Use

Last week readers responding to the poll indicated their use of the public library:

Q: How frequently do you, or an immediate family member, use the public library?

  • Weekly 41 [33.06%]
  • Monthly 27 [21.77%]
  • A few times a year 20 [16.13%]
  • Rarely 19 [15.32%]
  • Never 10 [8.06%]
  • Daily 6 [4.84%]
  • Other: 1 [0.81%] – “2 – 3 x weekly, various branches”

I guess it’s good that just 8% indicated they never use their public library. I wasn’t sure what to expect, weekly was the answer with the most responses, followed by monthly. When the central library reopens this year I’ll be there often hopefully. The original post is here.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: How Often Do You Use The Public Library?

May 6, 2012 Books, Featured 13 Comments

This year the St. Louis Central Library will reopen after a $70 million dollar renovation and the St. Louis County Library is seeking a property tax increase to replace it’s main building and others (story). The library is a great resource we all pay for,  one I know I haven’t used often enough. I’m changing that this year.

Lately I’ve been checking out DVDs from the library for titles I can’t stream on Netflix. I had to update my library card since I hadn’t used it for a while.  Turns out the St. Louis Library requires everyone to update their card after each birthday.

ABOVE: Cabanne Branch at 1106 Union Blvd

With all this investment in our libraries I was wondering how often you use the library. Take the poll in the right sidebar and add any comments below.

– Steve Patterson




Richard Nickel Died 40 Years Ago

ABOVE: Cover of book on Richard Nickel's photography, click image to see book info on Left Bank Books website

One Chicago resident was obsessed with photographing, stopping demolition of and lastly saving pieces from buildings designed by Louis Sullivan.

Architecture photographer Richard Nickel spent years with his camera, documenting — and arguing against — the demolition of buildings in Chicago. Thirty-five years ago this month, Nickel died trying to document the demise of a building designed by Louis Sullivan, whose architecture helped define the Chicago cityscape.

In the ’60s and early ’70s, Nickel watched the demolition of so many of Sullivan’s buildings — and buildings created by other turn-of-the-century masters — that he wrote, “I look forward to the day when I never have to enter a wet, charred, smoky building again.” (NPR)

He died 40 years ago today inside one of those buildings.

Nickel was killed on April 13, 1972, while attempting to obtain more items for SIUE, when a stairwell in the Chicago Stock Exchange building collapsed on him. He is buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, not very far from where Sullivan is buried. He died without completing his great collection of photographs of Sullivan’s work, but Nickel’s black-and-white photos have been displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago and elsewhere. The Richard Nickel Committee and Photographic Archive is a non-profit organization devoted to preserving the photographer’s work, and holds the copyrights for most of his pictures. (Wikipedia)

Some items previously salvaged by Nickel had been purchased by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). Some are on display in the The Louis H. Sullivan Collection in Lovejoy Library.

Nickel would be 83 if he were alive today.

– Steve Patterson