The Lost Subways of North America

If you’ve spent any amount of time driving through any major American city, you know what it’s like to be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. But if you’re from Los Angeles – the land of freeways, traffic and smog –  you know this struggle especially well.  

But Jake Berman, the author of The Lost Subways of North America, says it didn’t have to be this way! Los Angeles actually used to have a massive electric railway system in the early 1900s, called the Red Car. In fact, we made an episode about the rise and fall of LA’s Red Car back in 2013.

Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway streetcar map print, 1926. Jake Berman,

In this episode, Jake tells us about how, time after time, when North American cities seemed just inches away from having a robust, utopian future of fast, reliable, and convenient public transportation systems, something gets in the way. That thing is sometimes dysfunctional local politics, sometimes it’s bureaucracy. Sometimes it’s the way our infrastructure favors cars over mass transit, and too often, it’s racism. 

Take a listen to Jake and Roman go through a handful of North American cities and discuss what went wrong with their public transportation, and find out what exactly makes or breaks a transit system. 

Jake’s book The Lost Subways of North America is all about the subways of our past, present and future. Not only will you find great stories about the subways of North America, it also features beautiful transit maps that Jake illustrated himself. 



Host Roman Mars spoke with Jake Berman, author of The Lost Subways of North America. This episode was produced by Sarah Baik and edited by Kelly Prime.

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