New York Times Interviews Zach Schrag About the Aging Metro System

In an article on the Washington Metro, the New York Times writes that "the capital’s once-glorious subway system, the nation’s second busiest, is short on cash and a terrible mess." To explain the Metro's history, the Times turned to Professor Zach Schrag, author of The Great Society Subway:

The United States was at the height of its car craze when the idea for a subway system in Washington began percolating in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many cities were carving themselves up with freeways, often destroying poor African-American neighborhoods, said Zachary M. Schrag, a George Mason University professor and the author of “The Great Society Subway,” a 2006 history of Metro.

Metro, he said, offered an alternative, a way to connect the capital to its Maryland and Virginia suburbs in a “structured set of corridors where people would live and work,” with development clustered around train stations — a vision that, in many respects, has come to pass.

The system was to be a visual statement about the power and prestige of the American government, and was conceived, Mr. Schrag said, “very much in opposition to New York,” whose aging system was in the thick of a midlife crisis. In 1966, after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation authorizing Metro’s construction, he directed planners to scour the globe for design concepts so the new subway system could “take its place among the most attractive in the world.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos, “Washington Metro, 40 and Creaking, Stares at a Midlife Crisis,” The New York Times, April 4, 2016.