The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro

Zachary M. Schrag

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The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro

The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro By Zachary M. Schrag The Great Society Subway A History of the Washington Metro Drivers in the nation s capital face a host of hazards high speed traffic circles presidential motorcades jaywalking tourists and bewildering signs that send unsuspecting motorists from the Lincoln

  • Title: The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro
  • Author: Zachary M. Schrag
  • ISBN: 9780801882463
  • Page: 291
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro By Zachary M. Schrag Drivers in the nation s capital face a host of hazards high speed traffic circles, presidential motorcades, jaywalking tourists, and bewildering signs that send unsuspecting motorists from the Lincoln Memorial into suburban Virginia in less than two minutes And parking Don t bet on it unless you re in the fast lane of the Capital Beltway during rush hour.Little wonder,Drivers in the nation s capital face a host of hazards high speed traffic circles, presidential motorcades, jaywalking tourists, and bewildering signs that send unsuspecting motorists from the Lincoln Memorial into suburban Virginia in less than two minutes And parking Don t bet on it unless you re in the fast lane of the Capital Beltway during rush hour.Little wonder, then, that so many residents and visitors rely on the Washington Metro, the 106 mile rapid transit system that serves the District of Columbia and its inner suburbs In the first comprehensive history of the Metro, Zachary M Schrag tells the story of the Great Society Subway from its earliest rumblings to the present day, from Arlington to College Park, Eisenhower to Marion Barry.Unlike the pre World War II rail systems of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, the Metro was built at a time when most American families already owned cars, and when most American cities had dedicated themselves to freeways, not subways Why did the nation s capital take a different path What were the consequences of that decision Using extensive archival research as well as oral history, Schrag argues that the Metro can be understood only in the political context from which it was born the Great Society liberalism of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations The Metro emerged from a period when Americans believed in public investments suited to the grandeur and dignity of the world s richest nation The Metro was built not merely to move commuters, but in the words of Lyndon Johnson, to create a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community Schrag scrutinizes the project from its earliest days, including general planning, routes, station architecture, funding decisions, land use impacts, and the behavior of Metro riders The story of the Great Society Subway sheds light on the development of metropolitan Washington, postwar urban policy, and the promises and limits of rail transit in American cities.
    The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro By Zachary M. Schrag

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      Zachary M. Schrag

    One thought on “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro

    1. ambyr on said:

      Should be required reading for everyone in DC It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think, and it maybe just maybe restored a little of my hope in Metro s future After all, the system has already made it through an unimaginable amount of crap and interference What s one decade of political strife and lack of funds I moved to DC in 2004, when the Green Line was finally finished and the final Red and Blue Line stops mere months from opening The metro map save for the Silver Line and variou [...]

    2. Alex on said:

      Schrag has written a great history of the planning and construction the Washington Metro, and adroitly describes the political processes that both threatened and facilitated Metro Being the nation s capital meant that Metro got pulled into political currents, some having to do with home rule, some with the fragmented jurisdictions of the DMV, some regarding specific to DC quirks such as the arts commission , and some regarding Congressional control over the District Moreover, Metro in DC was see [...]

    3. Evan H on said:

      This was a fascinating, in depth account of the Washington Metro Following the process from its very beginnings as a plan contrary to freeway development, the book finishes up near present day with the opening of the final 5 Green Line stations and the extension of the Blue Line to Largo, MD.I would recommend parts of the book to anyone, but it will be best enjoyed by DC Metro riders Some of the most interesting sections were the anecdotes explaining names of stations, locations of the lines, an [...]

    4. Bitsy on said:

      While reading this book I didn t enjoy the style of prose, however all the information I learned has wormed its way into of my conversations than I ever would have predicted I am very glad to have read it.

    5. Rebecca on said:

      Astonishingly, nerdily, this is a great read Schrag gets deeply into the process of building Metro, the DC subway system He s over interested and neurotic about the details, and I loved every second of it.

    6. Kristen E. on said:

      One of my favorites, great history up to the mid 2000 s of DC s Metro and all the quirks that put it together.

    7. Evan Hughes on said:

      Interesting look at the history of the DC metro through a variety of lenses The book explores the history of the metro including the metro s design, the competing philosophies behind transportation in the district primarily rail versus auto centric , the political fighting over funding, differences in strategies between the city and the various suburbs, architecture neo classical to conform with the rest of the city or something modern , and debate over the general purpose of the metro to serve [...]

    8. J I on said:

      Got into grad school for transportation planning in DC a year after finishing this book nearly to the day Coincidence ah, probably.

    9. Mark on said:

      Haiku Review 8 Built by committee,the miracle is that itever worked at all.

    10. Alexander on said:

      This is the definitive history of the Metro, and I say that both as high praise and gentle critique Schrag s done an exhaustive job cataloging every commission that shaped the Metro system, providing a ton of context to how we got to the Metro we have today Most importantly, this book helped me better understand the challenges Metro has today, and the arguments for and against mass transit generally, and specific implementations I got a weird sense of deja vu reading arguments from the 50s, 60s, [...]

    11. Sandy on said:

      There are actually two Washingtons Washington the National Capital and Washington the City The two inhabit the same physical space but differ in a number of respects that only become obvious after spending some time outside the city s monumental core Most of us know a lot about that first one thanks to the media and the political class This book about how America s Subway came to be brings the second Washington to the fore.Transportation historians will appreciate Schrag s descriptions of the Me [...]

    12. David Cooke on said:

      I really enjoyed this book It s definitely a little dry and academic and truly for only the transportation nerds, but it really puts into perspective the difficulty of trying to get a project of this scope built I also appreciated the clearly biased writer s conclusions at the end of how the short sighted approach to governance today makes something like this impossible.An area that I struggled with the book was definitely with the numerous people While usually an individual s role in the develo [...]

    13. Sharon on said:

      This is a very thorough and very opinionated history of how the Washington DC area built its metro system It s mostly about the political work that got the Metro built crafting legislation in Congress, cobbling together federal and local funding, and getting DC, Maryland, and Virginia to compromise The book talks about the incredible number of obstacles as well as the personalities and motivations of the people who overcame the obstacles There s some discussion of engineering and architectural d [...]

    14. Emily on said:

      I ve been taking metro for 8 years, disembarking at Judiciary Square every morning, but until I read this book I had no idea that was the first station of the 103 mile system This book is a fascinating look into how metro was built Not as much the construction side, but the murkier ecosystem of congressional and DC local politics, public opinion, budgets, and economic development It is mind boggling to me how long decades the effort took the studies conducted, the requirements and curveballs thr [...]

    15. Tom on said:

      A comprehensive study of the design, construction, and operation of a subway that nearly wasn t built While the urban renewal movement gained steam in the mid 20th century, the District of Columbia found itself with little power to organize its own affairs, and as a potential playground for urban planners in Congress who cared mostly about keeping undesirables out of sight as they commuted between their offices and the Capitol Thus, large swaths of the District faced demolition in the name of pr [...]

    16. Joe on said:

      This is a fun book, especially if you have had any experiences on the Washington Metro and are interested in urban history policy In all the ways I found it to be fascinating, I also found it to be a kind of depressing book The fact is, Washington is a special case, and unique in that it has this tremendous wealth of power involved and automatic significance due to its existence as our nation s capital Reading it from the perspective of a pro rail Milwaukeean and an advocate of public transporta [...]

    17. William Mosteller on said:

      Wonderful, detailed discussion of the history of the Washington, DC, Metro system, including details of the politics and challenges of the system Puts the current set of problems in perspective.

    18. Lani on said:

      I had high hopes for this, but it is VERY dry I enjoyed learning about the design of the Metro, but the politics and name dropping lost my interest pretty frequently I have read several urban planning non fiction books recently that I DID find engaging Traffic Why We Drive the Way We Do and Walkable City How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time so I think that those got my hopes up a bit.

    19. Karen on said:

      This book took me ages to complete It is far academic than your ordinary for personal enjoyment non fiction read It gets very bogged down in committee names, local political figures, and the in fighting among everyone involved Much like Washington itself, I suppose.That said, it is thorough as hell You get a great overview of the competing purposes behind Metro, the unique problems faced by a tri state plus federal metropolitan area, and the successes and failures encountered at each step along [...]

    20. Pat on said:

      A nice piece of non fiction Only read this work in totality if you re interested in community, state, and federal politics, architecture, transportation, and urban planning Otherwise, pick and choose chapters.Be forewarned, Schrag does not attempt to conceal his bias for the many pro rapid transit local community groups involved in the fight for Metro He admires their civic pride nothing wrong with that If you re sympathetic of federal bureaucrats or egotistical architects, you probably won t li [...]

    21. Ari on said:

      I enjoyed it quite a bit perhaps because I am in DC regularly and always on Metro It explained some things I had been wondering about why the two disconnected Farragut stations, why the lack of express tracks, etc The answers are the park service wouldn t allow a station entrance in the square and money The book is part history, part social analysis If you ride the metro, the history will mean to you, but the social analysis will be articulating things you already know The illustrations in the [...]

    22. Adam on said:

      This isn t the most thrilling book ever written However, after spending 1000s of hours of my life on the Metro, it was fascinating to see how Metro adapted to and altered the landscape of the DC area during its inception Plus, it confirmed my dislike of Fairfax County and reminded us that the problems we suffer every day now are just magnified versions of problems that always existed.I hesitated to give this book 5 stars only because of the very rosy picture the book painted near the end, which [...]

    23. Aaron on said:

      For anyone interested in the complex history of the DC metro system, this book comes through big time With rigorous research, Schraag captures the tension that is still present to this day when the system undergoes a change or challenges notions about the greater good.There are a few moments that get bogged down with a type of granularity not easily appreciated by the general public, but I suppose if you picked up this book you were prepared for some less than exciting recounting of political gr [...]

    24. Dwight on said:

      If you live in DC, use public transit, and follow politics you should thoroughly enjoy this book Seriously It s a thoroughly interesting history of not only Washington s Metro subway but the entire transportation infrastructure of our nation s capital I read most of it while riding the commuter train or the Metro, and I can imagine it wouldn t hold much interest for most people who don t live here That being said, it does give a fascinating history of the intersection of urban and transportation [...]

    25. Katherine on said:

      Very good, though it took me a little while to get through I d love to find historical sociological books like this for other U.S transit systems technical photographic histories are easy to find It s amazing that such a huge system was built so recently sadly, it s hard to imagine it happening today in cities that need rail transit.I meant to photocopy the map at the beginning of the book to have a reference while I was reading Or I could have just dug up a map from my visit to DC this summer i [...]

    26. Cody VC on said:

      Very good overall some chapters are easier to get through than others, depending on reader interest, but in the end it s a valuable read for those who live in the region and or are Metro riders.One thing that I enjoyed was that, within Prof Schrag s framework, it really is a fairly comprehensive history meaning that very little seems to have been left out, not even the issue of access for the disabled Chapter six, The Builders one of the chapters I personally found the most engaging.

    27. Peter on said:

      Fun book for folks who live with Metro Dispels some of the Metro myths e.g Georgetown s white residents vetoed a station in fact, no station was ever planned for Georgetown because of engineering and usage issues Also provides interesting local context for the development of the DC area over the past forty years Contrasts the Mid City U St area , Arlington, and Montgomery County approaches to Metro driven development with Fairfax County s less dense worse approach Bottom line cannot argue that M [...]

    28. Csparrenberger on said:

      This is a very detailed look at the building of the Washington, D.C Metro system The most interesting part was the effect the system has had on the areas around each Metro station This book was of special interest to me as I visit the area twice a year and always ride the metro Further, I was with one of the contractors employed on the system in the 1970 s Lot of memories in those tunnels.

    29. Jodi on said:

      It s a book about the DC Metro, what can I say Parts are a little boring and some repetitive but there were also some really interesting things, like how Metro Center got its name I had never really thought about city planning, highway planning and such as it relates to metro systems.I suppose if you for whatever reason want to learn about the metrois is an excellent place to start.

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