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The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System 1st Edition

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Review
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“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)

“Joseph B. Raskin’s parents never owned a car, and so the New York subway system perhaps played an outsize role in
shaping his worldview. In The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City’s Unbuilt Subway System (Fordham University
Press), Mr. Raskin draws on this perspective to provide 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 subways. If only the Transit Construction Commission’s 1920 plan had
been adopted: a $350 million, 20-year blueprint that would have provided a grid of 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)

Apart from sheer enjoyment, this book underscores how radically decisions about transit shape property values, commerce,
neighborhoods, and people. (―Choice Magazine)

“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 author of Rochdale Village: Robert Moses, 6,000 Families, and New York City's Great
Experiment in Integrated Housing)

“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)

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. (―Wall Street Journal)

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About the Author
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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 recently retired as Assistant Director of Government
and Community Relations for MTA New York City Transit.

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