The best books about rapid transit 📚

Browse the best books on rapid transit as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Mr. Beck's Underground Map: A History

Mr. Beck's Underground Map: A History

By Ken Garland

Why this book?

Without doubt the inspiration and key reference work for so many books, websites and studies investigating the design of subway maps. Being one of the only writers on cartography who actually met Harry Beck, Garland was the first to forensically examine the London Tube diagram designed by him. The intimacy of Garlands relationship with beck shines through and informs the whole text. The reader even gets to see some of Becks unpublished works. A simply ‘must have’ for anyone interested in railways, cartography and design in general.

From the list:

The best books about subways and urban trains

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Book cover of The story of the Paris Metro: from 1900 to the current day

The story of the Paris Metro: from 1900 to the current day

By Clive Lamming

Why this book?

The most detailed of all English books on the history of the Paris Metro and arguably the most informative on engineering, construction, signalling and rolling stock. With a level of detail bordering on the obsessive, Lamming probes the very heart of what makes this most impressive of World metro systems tick. The difficulties of building the first lines through the honeycombed quarries below Paris, and the first tunnels under the Seine are articulated in immense detail. With hundreds of engineers illustrations and archive photos there is little to compare this book with in the English language.

From the list:

The best books about subways and urban trains

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Book cover of Das Berliner U- und S-Bahnnetz: Eine Geschichte in Streckenplänen von 1888 bis heute

Das Berliner U- und S-Bahnnetz: Eine Geschichte in Streckenplänen von 1888 bis heute

By Alfred B. Gottwaldt

Why this book?

Don’t worry if you are not fluent in German: this book is packed with images and if you want to understand the way the Berlin U-Bahn system expanded - it is required reading. Gottwaldt was the first person to collect and publish historic maps of the system and reproduction of the maps is exceptional. Starting in 1888 - before the present U-Bahn was conceived - his selection of cartographic delights includes the city’s earliest urban rail lines. The 1896 plan of the ’Nord-Ring’ and ’Sud-Ring’ foretells how the pattern of Berlins current S-Bahn and his example of a 1922 track…

From the list:

The best books about subways and urban trains

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Underground

Underground

By David Macaulay

Why this book?

Strictly speaking, I’m not sure this should be called a picture book because it has a lot of text, but David Macaulay does such a masterful job at rendering the world beneath our feet, that a list of books about the infrastructure of our cities would be incomplete without it. This book will intrigue anyone and everyone who picks it up–no matter their age.

From the list:

The best picture books about the infrastructure of our cities: subways and buildings and roads, oh my!

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Book cover of Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

By Taras Grescoe

Why this book?

Should be upfront about this: Taras is a neighbor and I see him riding his bike frequently. But he's also ridden public transportation around the world, and his book about what he found is profoundly inspiring. Public transit can work, it indeed must work if we're going to cut our carbon footprint and live in cities that are sustainable. It's full of great stories about his adventures: if you thought subways and buses are boring, he'll convince you otherwise.

From the list:

The best books to design a workable, walkable, wonderful city

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