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The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System Hardcover – December 1, 2013


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The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System + The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press (December 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823253694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823253692
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 1 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"This is an extraordinary and magisterial book, the product of years of diligent research on a topic that has been almost completely ignored, but one central to the understanding of the evolution of New York City in the twentieth century."--Peter Eisenstadt


"The New York subway is a source of basic mobility in the world's greatest city, but there remains much to be learned about why it came to be and how it functions. Raskin has given us a book that places all of our factual and historical narratives in a much larger context what might have been, what could have been, and, perhaps, what should have been." --Brian J. Cudahy, A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways


"The Routes Not Taken is a fascinating look at what did not happen with the New York City subway system and why. Joseph Raskin provides detailed accounts of why several subway lines that have been long needed and desired such as one in the northeast Bronx and one across Queens and Brooklyn never got built. The stories are full of twists and turns as politicians, business interests, civic groups, transit advisors and engineers all argue over which line is needed, what the specifics of its route should be, and even if it should be done ahead of another line. The Routes Not Taken is engrossing but ultimately dispiriting. One comes away from reading Mr. Raskin's book with a sense of awe that New York City has a subway system of any kind and extent given the numerous competing forces that have cancelled each other out in the past." --Paul Shaw, Author of Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story


" provide[s] an insightful look at the what-might-have-beens of urban mass transit. The first subway, the IRT from City Hall to West 145th Street, was built in four and a half years. That pace has rarely been equaled in the century since. Consider that the Second Avenue subway, the first segment of which is to open in 2016, was envisioned in 1929. Why were certain lines elevated and later demolished instead of buried? Mr. Raskin, the assistant director of government and community relations for New York City Transit, dusts off old blueprints of lines that were never built or never completed, explaining how the system shaped urban development and how political and economic forces conspired to create today's subway lines covering all five boroughs and provided for a city with a population even bigger than today's." --Sam Roberts, The New York Times


"Joseph Raskin has opened a big can of worms with this book. He brings to light the massive number of subway lines that were planned throughout the area but stayed just that; plans and nothing more." --Ink New York


"Using research from libraries, historical societies, and transit agencies throughout the New York metropolitan area, Raskin provides a fascinating history of the Big Apple's unfinished business that until now has been only tantalizing stories retold by public-transit experts." --Western Queens Gazette, Jason D. Antos


"In presenting lively...case studies of what he regards as the most important unbuilt lines, Mr. Raskin encourages his readers to think about the adaptable nature of the city."--WSJ Book Review


""Apart from sheer enjoyment, this book underscores how radically decisions about transit shape property values, commerce, neighborhoods, and people."--Highly Recommended-- Choice Magzine


About the Author


Joseph B. Raskin is an independent scholar. He is widely regarded as an authority on unbuilt subway systems, on which he has been interviewed by the New York Times. He is Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations for MTA New York City Transit.

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Customer Reviews

Well researched and good interpretations of historical data.
Leon Levine
This is a book about politics, not about the NYC subway system.
Richard F. Colarco
Again I would suggest anyone that rides NYCTA read this book.
Edward Morris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By B. Wolinsky on December 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
There’s a building at 2nd Avenue and 33rd street with a plaza in front, it’s open to the public and very popular with smokers. I never could figure out why anyone would waste the space on a plaza; surely the owners must have lost money on the unused space. But a according to this book, the zoning rules required the building to have the plaza; the city wanted to use it for a subway entrance! The building was from the 1970’s, a time when Mayor Lindsay and Governor Rockefeller had planned the 2nd Avenue Subway line, all the way to downtown Manhattan. It would be almost 40 years before it was built, a delay that resulted from a combination of financial troubles and a fractured city government. Meanwhile, the plaza remains

Joseph Raskin has opened a big can of worms with this book. He brings to light the massive number of subway lines that were planned throughout the area but stayed just that; plans and nothing more. Never mind the 2nd Avenue subway line, that’s been in the works for years. I’m taking about a subway line that would’ve run all the way to the East Bronx. If you’ve ever been there (which is unlikely unless you live there) you’ll know you can’t get there without a car. There was even a plan to build a subway line straight across the city to the Hudson River.

Raskin’s research for this book places most of the blame on Mayors who didn’t care for the subway that much. As the city expanded outward, there was a push to build more roadways for the cars and less emphasis on public transport. And what could exemplify the “subways don’t count” attitude like the great Robert Moses, who wrecked the Bronx with his Cross Bronx Expressway? Perhaps the blame should fall on the people as well; more and more New Yorkers drank the cool aid about the “house and car” dream after WWII.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By raw on December 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A thoroughly researched book rich in footnotes. The theme is largely political showing the conflicts between proposed routes, construction (subway vs. el), real estate developers vs. riders, private management (IRT and BMT) vs. city constructed and managed. (IND), and the conflicts between state and city. There were endless and enervating political delays which delayed construction of new routes for decades. The impacts of the great depression and WW2 are well drawn. One is impressed at the power held by various mayors, Robert Moses, and administrators who were advancing their own political agendas at the expense of sound economic and engineering considerations. These factors persist to this day. It is a wonder that the LIRR to the eastside, the extension of the 7 to the westside , and the initial phase of the 2nd avenue subway are underway despite the political and economic environment.

On the negative side, the maps and figures are often poor copies barely readable with a magnifying glass. I wish for clearer and, perhaps, redrawn supporting artifacts.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By G. R. Carter on January 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You would need to be very familiar with New York City to find this book useful. In order to understand the material presented, a good street map of the metropolitan area is almost essential. There is none in the book; the sparse maps which are included are too small, often illegible copies of photographs from old newspapers.

While it obviously represents a great deal of careful research, I found the way the findings are presented quite tedious and confusing. In each chapter the author sets out to trace the chronological history of a particular subway line or service area through proposals, engineering studies, budgetary discussions, design modifications, alternate proposals, meetings, meetings, meetings... Sometimes he diverges briefly into the political career (past and/or future) of one or another of the participants, sometimes even referring to their activity at another time in regard to another transit line. The illustrations include numerous images of the political players, again poor copies of old newspaper photos.

Each chapter follows basically the same pattern, from conception to abandonment (meetings, meetings, meetings...). The time frames covered run from the late 1800s in some cases up to the current day. They clearly demonstrate how the conflicting motives and objectives of interested parties affected the development of the transit system, but without giving a sense of how such matters related to the growth of the city as a whole.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mel! Vin! on June 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been waiting for a book like this for a long time, and I was so excited to learn of it. And so my disappointment in the actual result was profound. While it's clear that Raskin knows the stories of the unbuilt lines in tremendous (even excessive) detail, the organization of the book is baffling, and the lack of maps and legible diagrams is unforgivable--especially since Raskin refers to the lines by their historic names (e.g., the Sea Beach Line instead of the N). This is an understandable decision, but it must make the book daunting for those who haven't internalized the old names. A list of lines and names in the back helps a little, but a map or series of maps would have made a huge difference.

I know maps are expensive and that old ones often don't reproduce well. But Raskin needed to make the investment in new drawings to illustrate much of what he talks about. I'm very familiar with New York's transit geography, but I repeatedly had to go to other sources to figure out what he was referring to. The narrative structure is equally baffling, with stories coming and going in no particular chronological order. I can't imagine what a more casual reader would make of this.

I really wanted to love this book, but I think only the most diehard of NYC railfans will get through this happily.
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