Made to Move Grants are Helping Cities Redesign for Active Transit

Can U.S. cities transform to overcome extreme car dependency?

In summer 2019, two values driven agencies came together to see if they could incentivize change in five cities with the Made to Move Grant program. This innovative, unique, and inspirational partnership between Degree and Blue Zones is awarding $100,000 dollars to each city to redesign their neighborhoods and city-centers for active, healthy lives. The program aims to create model practices and projects that gain the attention of other cities and inspire evolutionary changes to once again focus on places for people, and design accordingly.

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How to Prepare our Cities For Autonomous Vehicles

Shared mobility services have been proposed as a solution to urban congestion. When Uber and Lyft launched a decade ago, proponents of this model of peer-to-peer “ride sharing” claimed it would revolutionize public transportation to the point of replacing it. Opponents of a 2016 ballot measure to fund transit projects in Detroit wrote, “The proposal spends billions on old transit tech like buses and rail while other cities are contracting out transit services to Uber, Lyft, Chariot and others that provide door-to-door service at substantial savings.”

In the meantime, we’ve learned that peer-to-peer ride sharing services, better called ride-hailing services since they primarily function as taxis carrying individual passengers, have made traffic 180 percent worse in some cities. They have over-supplied the market with vehicles that are empty most of the time, on average adding 2.8 miles of traffic for every mile they carry passengers.

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CityLab Daily: Cities are for People

Make Little Plans

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

At CityLab, the idea that people can create cities for everybody guides how we do our journalism, too. What makes cities lively, exciting, and innovative is the capacity for change. As research and history show, the budgets, buildings, and blocks that citizens fight to build today define the paths that others will walk tomorrow.

This week, we featured reflections on the last decade from some of the people responsible for planting CityLab’s roots, our alumni. It is a fitting moment to be revisiting the decade: It was almost ten years ago that CityLab launched in 2011 as The Atlantic Cities. And in the coming week, as we enter 2020, CityLab is leaving its home at the Atlantic to head over to Bloomberg.

As part of that transition, a few members of the CityLab team are saying goodbye, yours truly included. Today is my last day as the daily guide on your CityLab journey. But I walk away from this experience knowing that what we’ve built together already will provide a great foundation for what is yet to come.

Over and out, and on your left,
Andrew Small

A note to readers: Tomorrow, January 1, CityLab is becoming part of Bloomberg Media. In the coming weeks, you can expect to continue receiving this newsletter, and the journalism that comes with it. But we need a little time to make this transition. After today’s edition, we’ll be on hiatus until Tuesday, January 7. You can find out more about Bloomberg‘s information practices by reviewing their privacy policy and you can visit your accounts page to unsubscribe or update your preferences. See you in 2020.

More on CityLab

The Decade in Cities, from CityLab Alums

What’s changed and what hasn’t since we set out to chronicle cities in 2011? To answer this question, we went back to CityLab’s roots.


Turning a Vast, Post-Industrial Wilderness Into a Park in Pittsburgh

The city acquired the 600-plus acres of Hays Woods, once used for mining and munitions, in 2016, but the work of restoring the land has only just begun.

Mark Kramer

How Valuing Productivity, Not Profession, Could Reduce U.S. Inequality

In this second part of an interview with economist Jonathan Rothwell, he explains that a just society wouldn’t reward different professions so unequally.

Richard Florida

Your Fitness Resolution Might Be Easier If You’re Rich

The availability of exercise venues reflects broader divides of class and geography.

Richard Florida

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How the On-Demand Economy Reshaped Cities

In 1964, scientists in the Galápagos Islands fed radio transmitters wrapped in chunks of food to a bunch of giant tortoises. As the animals slept, wandered, and mated, their behaviors pinged back to the research team’s receivers in the form of radio signals.

This early use of telemetry, or the transmission of computer information over long ranges, proved that biologists could observe, make inferences about, and even influence their subjects remotely. In her 2019 tome The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, the Harvard scholar Shoshanna Zuboff writes that the tortoise experiment was also a prelude for the kind of data-collection technology that has become ubiquitous in human society. And in the 2010s, it began to transform the shape of modern cities.

Today, as with the reptiles, we’re sometimes monitored for scientific purposes. Think of the fecal probes that MIT scientists sent into the bowls of Boston’s sewers to search for traces of opioid use. In some instances it is for government and law enforcement, as with streetlight cameras that count vehicles, scan license plates, or nab red-light runners. But the largest stage of telemetric technology has been for commerce. Our data as consumers and participants in daily life are not simply passively gathered: Consolidated, it has become the raw material for many of the products and services we buy.

It’s well known that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other information technology companies bottle up our digital exhaust while we’re using their products (and even while they’re just running in the background). Our clicks, keystrokes, and physical locations are aggregated as data points and smoothed into forecasts for our future choices, which turn into nudges towards certain outcomes. That might mean an online ad for the microwave you hovered over, an invitation to “like” a company’s Facebook page, or a coupon for a nearby retailer popping up on your phone. Over the past decade, telemetry has soared to new heights of power on the commercial web: Amazon has amassed 360-degree views of its “everything store” customers to guess our incomes, predict our desires, and charge us prices we’ll jump to pay.

That predictive architecture now shapes how we move through the physical world, too. Modern household lighting, kitchen appliances, personal vehicles, public streetlights, malls, and airports amass telemetric information about their human users and occupants, then use those insights of the crowd to tweak our habits and environments. A “smart” traffic intersection might give priority to city buses. A “smart” car might ramp up your insurance payments. A “smart” TSA scanner might help inspection agents target certain travelers. And a “smart” city? It might watch over and organize how its residents use public spaces, gathering data and sending nudges with aims of improving efficiency, safety, and public health.

The risks and benefits of using these technologies for urban planning and law enforcement are the subject of great debate, and they’re still revealing themselves in practice. But big data analytics have done more than cast a Big Brotherly shadow over urban space. They have also changed the significance of a basic element of what makes them urban: dense proximity.  

Historically, one of the great economic benefits of urban life is having access to jobs, schooling, goods, and services without needing to travel very far. But digital platforms that aggregate consumer demand are making physical density less important. Uber and Airbnb, the killer apps of the 2010s, exemplify this change. Once upon a time, visitors needed to flock to quarters where a city’s supply of hotel accommodations and other tourist amenities were physically consolidated, usually downtown. If you needed a ride, you used to call the taxi company directly, or flag down one of the cabs that served that area.

Now we transmit our demands for trips and beds as data from wherever we are, rather than direct interactions that depend on physical nearness. Uber and Airbnb consolidate our requests with those of a sea of other users, set prices, offer us suppliers, and dispatch them to us (for more on this, see the technology analyst Ben Thompson’s aggregation theory). The apps are creating their own agglomerations of demand, networks that are held together via digital ligaments instead of actual proximity. Kevin Webb, a transportation data expert, points out that Amazon works the same way, building off the big-box store model that came before it: Instead of physically traveling to an area where you can buy tennis balls, shampoo, and a can of tomato paste at three different but close-together shops, its shopping algorithms mean that it can stash those items on a single warehouse shelf thousands of miles away.

What does this shift mean? On-demand platforms have made certain kinds of goods and services more convenient, affordable, and accessible for customers across the income, age, and race spectrums. New places and things opened up for new markets. But the less-desirable consequences of replacing physical marketplaces with digital bundles of demand have been major. As ride-hailing emerged, the taxi industry in most cities has been gutted; in many others, traffic congestion has spiked and transit ridership has declined. Thanks to online short-term rentals, traditional hotels have seen a declining share of travelers opting for their wares and neighborhood housing shortages have been exacerbated by hosts who rent to Airbnb guests rather than full-time tenants. In some cases, once-residential neighborhoods have been emptied of locals and turned into streets of rentable ghost hotels.

As those effects manifested in cities from Tuscaloosa to San Francisco over the 2010s, critics blamed these upstart industries for wreaking havoc on traffic planning, housing prices, and local labor markets. But a subtler impact may be just as important: They altered a key ingredient of what makes an urban economy. The 2010s were the decade the city became an App Store: an online marketplace where our choices were closely tracked, where that data became part of the products we were using, and where digital clusters of activity displaced real-world transactions. Yes, we still go downtown for drinks, meals, and shopping experiences. But, more and more, we live in cities of the cloud.

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CityLab Daily: Why Do Christmas Movies Hate Cities So Much?

What We’re Following

Love, actually? If you spent any time this week watching television holiday rom-coms, you may have noticed a pattern: The city is no place for love. CityLab’s Linda Poon explains:

You don’t have to watch many of these movies to see the bad rap that cities get. Before our protagonist (usually a single woman) gets enchanted by twinkling lights and prop Christmas trees, she must first flee the grey, cold-hearted metropolis that leaves her feeling some combination of lonely, overworked, and grumpy. And leave it to the residents of some weirdly Christmas-obsessed small town that she finds herself in for some reason—a baking contest! a secret inheritance! supernatural forces!—to teach her the True Meaning of Christmas.

What gives? Read Poon’s take: Why Do Christmas Movies Hate Cities So Much?

And enjoy a few of our favorite archive holiday links below.

More on CityLab

Last Exit to Pottersville

What the 1946 Christmas movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ says about small-town America in 2016.

David Dudley

Bringing Christmas Back Downtown

Shoppers once flocked to the centers of American cities during the holidays. Today, boosters are using the season to spur urban revival.

Jessica Leigh Hester

The Rise and Fall of New Year’s Fitness Resolutions, in 5 Charts

The January gym spike is real, but it drops off just a few weeks later, according to data from location and fitness apps.

Linda Poon

Navigation Apps Changed the Politics of Traffic

In an excerpt from the new book The Future of Transportation, CityLab’s Laura Bliss adds up the “price of anarchy” when it comes to traffic navigation apps.

Laura Bliss

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Why Do Christmas Movies Hate Cities So Much?

If the deluge of holiday rom-coms from the likes of Hallmark, Lifetime, and more recently Netflix are to be believed, the city is no place for love.

Take Lauren Gabriel, heroine of the new Hallmark Channel holiday movie Christmas Town. She hits a dead end in Boston with her self-absorbed boyfriend and also the city’s white-hot job market. So she leaves the big city in search of the simple life (on a train!) and gets stuck in picture-perfect “Grandon Falls,” a small town so serious about Christmas it’s nicknamed after the holiday. And there—spoiler alert!—she finds the perfect guy.

You don’t have to watch many of these movies to see the bad rap that cities get. Before our protagonist (usually a single woman) gets enchanted by twinkling lights and prop Christmas trees, she must first flee the grey, cold-hearted metropolis that leaves her feeling some combination of lonely, overworked, and grumpy. And leave it to the residents of some weirdly Christmas-obsessed small town that she finds herself in for some reason—a baking contest! a secret inheritance! supernatural forces!—to teach her the True Meaning of Christmas.

If the popularity of Hallmark’s decade-old “Countdown to Christmas” franchise is any indication, the urban-rural divide resonates with holiday movie viewers. Perhaps it reflects the very real loneliness reported by urban residents, and the lack of community space to help combat it. It may also be that these movies tap into nostalgia for a vanished world of idealized Main Streets in the face of growing criticism of what current consumer habits are doing. What these movies aren’t, as Dylan Reid poignantly notes in Spacing Toronto, are rebukes of urbanism itself.

In fact, the small towns of holiday movieland embody everything one would want within a city, Reid writes: “Dense residential neighborhoods around a vibrant downtown main street full of independent stores and services, with attractive and well-used public spaces that bring residents together in person.”

These pretend hamlets aren’t just uncommonly pedestrian-friendly (Grandon Falls appears to have a car-free business district), they’re human-friendly. Imagine Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—with jolly postmen and friendly shopkeepers who mean it when they inquire about your day—except Christmas has vomited all over it.

But that’s not to say these towns don’t have their own problems. Sometimes, it’s developers from the big city who want to bulldoze the antique shops and Christmas-themed bakeries. Often, the drama revolves around insufficient funding for holiday decorations.

In the real world, wealth and opportunity are continuing to concentrate in a handful of large, affluent metros, leaving diminishing economic resources for smaller towns and cities. But spacial inequality isn’t a problem in Grandon Falls, because the primary local industry seems to be altruism. The townspeople have taken in families displaced by a building fire nearby, and the first foster kid that Lauren meets just can’t stop donating jackets to the other foster kids. When services are lacking, the residents pitch in. There is no ride-hailing in Christmas Town; only Travis, a stranger with a rusty pickup who forces Lauren to accept a ride from the train station. (Lauren’s concern for her safety is quickly brushed off, because everyone knows Travis!)  It’s the kind of community that Lauren could not have found in cold-hearted Boston.

The irony, of course, is that these movies that portray the cruel hustle of big cities and the virtues of small-town life are filmed in big cities that get high marks for livability. Christmas Town, like many products of the holiday rom-com industrial complex, was shot in the made-for-cable Christmas movie wonderland of Vancouver, British Columbia, which boasts an abundance of studios and proximity to a variety of urban and rural shooting locations. Vancouver is also a perennial high-scorer in urban happiness and well-being rankings, a place that Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery singles out for praise in his book Happy City. (As this first-hand report from the Christmas Town shoot reveals, conditions on set were somewhat less magical: Filmed on a suburban backlot during a heat wave, the movie used leftover ice from Vancouver’s fish markets as a stand-in for snow.)

Other films rely on Toronto, another Canadian metro with enviable livability scores, to play the urban heavy; while certain landmarks may stand out to local viewers, the mostly American Christmas-movie audience is none the wiser. They’re too busy inhaling the on-screen, small-town romance that Hallmark and its kin have carefully crafted to make us believe miracles happen—just not in the big city.

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Are Cities Paying for Expensive Jails by Force-Filling Them?

In 2015, after nearly a decade of jail overcrowding, rural Coffee County, Tennessee, completed a brand new 400-bed jail—a facility more than twice the size of its predecessor. The jail population then skyrocketed, increasing more than 60 percent between April 2015 and April 2018 and even briefly surpassing the new jail’s capacity. While the number of people jailed had dipped slightly by September 2019, the Coffee County story is still one of increased incarceration.

The project cost a whopping $21 million to complete, a figure that does not include the cost of maintaining or staffing the new facility. And, more than half of the people in the new jail haven’t been convicted: They are being held before trial and most only face misdemeanor charges, but are likely simply too poor to afford bail in a community where 14 percent of residents live below the poverty line.  

Local news also reported that the county probation department had resumed jailing people who hadn’t necessarily committed new crimes, but had violated the terms of their probation, a practice they’d put on pause when the old jail was full.

Coffee County’s story illuminates a troubling national phenomenon highlighted in our new report: As major cities decarcerate and close jails, smaller cities and rural communities are incarcerating people at higher and higher rates and investing heavily in jail expansion. Amid a decades-long decline in crime, this has created an uneven experience of incarceration across the urban-to-rural spectrum. There is an excess of empty beds in a small handful of places, with shocking overcrowding elsewhere. In 2017, there were far more jail beds available nationwide than people held in jail, yet one in five jails had a population at or above 100 percent of its rated capacity.

For many counties, the issues posed by overcrowding, coupled with concerns about jail safety and conditions, especially in old or out-of-date facilities, have not brought about a reckoning with the human or fiscal cost of incarceration. Instead, many counties are choosing to respond to the liabilities and concerns created by overflowing jails by investing limited local dollars in expanded correctional control and justifying the additional spending on larger jails by framing incarceration as a solution, rather than a problem.

Our nation’s jails often warehouse people with mental health and substance-use issues—a situation that is particularly pronounced in areas where little community-based care is available, and where both opiate and methamphetamine use is on the rise. Expansion and jail-based responses are increasingly packaged and publicly promoted as a “solution” for people who are poor, sick, and struggling; and posited as a rationale for new investment. To further underscore this logic, new facilities are branded as “justice campuses” or a “law centers,” obscuring the building’s principal function: to incarcerate.

But community-based treatment is generally more effective than jail-based responses and jail construction often consumes most or all of the finite resources needed to invest in health and resilience in the community, investments that might help prevent incarceration in the first place. What’s more, many jail facilities fail to provide minimal health care, often struggling to offer even the most basic medication or treatment to incarcerated people. And even well-intentioned correctional efforts are still correctional efforts: Confinement in a facility for which the primary aim remains control, surveillance, and punishment is antithetical to treatment goals.

Ultimately, counties cannot build their way out of crisis. Jail expansion alone fails to address the root causes of incarceration and overcrowding, leaving in place the very policies and practices that drove the jail’s population increase in the first place. Indeed, a larger jail with more beds may reduce the incentive to make policy changes that address the factors driving overcrowding due to the temporary relief expansion provides. Jail population growth and increasing capacity can create a vicious cycle, resulting in an ever-increasing number of people in jail.

Even in the midst of a jail construction boom, it would be a mistake to think that this reflects a deep American commitment to incarceration. On the contrary, a growing number of county leaders and local voters view jail construction with growing suspicion. In a 2018 poll commissioned by the Vera Institute of Justice, 67 percent of respondents agreed that “building more jails and prisons to keep more people in jail does not reduce crime,” and 61 percent felt that “the money spent on building prisons and jails can be better spent on other things.”

On election day in 2019, voters in Arapahoe County, Colorado—a suburb of Denver—brought these sentiments to the voting booth and overwhelmingly rejected a ballot issue that would have raised taxes to pay for an estimated $400 million jail. While the cost alone was staggering, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition also articulated a hunger from the community for a more expansive set of solutions to overcrowding. Other communities have shown that this is possible. Rather than building new, larger jails, some counties are ambitiously reducing wealth-based detention and the criminalization of poverty, renovating older facilities, and rejecting needlessly carceral “solutions.” This work embodies a commitment to redefining and reinvesting in true community safety and shows that mass incarceration is not any community’s destiny.

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How Cities Can Engage with Mobility as a Service

By incorporating multiple transport modes into a single application, users can benefit from personalised services which recognise individual mobility needs, easier transactions and payments, and dynamic journey management and planning.

A fully comprehensive MaaS offering could mean the ownership of private vehicles is no longer necessary for people. As mobility needs begin to be provided by a range of services through a single platform, usership could replace ownership.

The potential of MaaS has been recognised around the world. In the UK, the government has included MaaS within its transport strategy. An expert committee of Members of Parliament concluded that MaaS has the “potential to transform how people travel” by boosting public transport, reducing congestion, and improving air quality.

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Mayors to Presidential Hopefuls: Listen to Cities

American mayors are here to tell the presidential candidates what’s really going on.

“So often what happens when you get into large office you lose touch with what reality is,” said Greg Fischer, the mayor of Louisville and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, on a call with members of the press. This week, the Conference released a slate of policy prescriptions for presidential candidates that are intended to reflect local priorities.

The predominant theme: They need far more federal money for urgent local needs, particularly housing, infrastructure, and climate change.

“The origin of these policies come from our citizens. We believe this is the most direct way of talking to the residents of America’s metro areas,” said Fischer.

The agenda, released this week, was developed and “seen by” 99 mayors from USCM’s broad coalition, said Bryan K. Barnett, the U.S. Conference of Mayors president and mayor of Rochester Hills, Michigan.

On infrastructure, the mayors are calling on the federal government to assist cities by securing the highway trust fund, allocating more highway dollars to mayors and local officials, and spending more money on airports and public transit. They also highlighted the need for support in their efforts to regulate new transportation technology, from scooters to self-driving cars, and called for incentives to cities that are innovating in the public transit space.

“The mayors have led on this issue of infrastructure for the past several years and continuously amplified the need for an infrastructure bill,” said Elizabeth B. Kautz, the mayor of Burnsville and a former president of USCM. “Nothing unites Americans like the need for better infrastructure.”

Housing is another area that mayors say demands more federal funding. To fix blighted and vacated neighborhoods, the mayors want a redo of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which spent more than $7 billion from 2008 to 2010 before being defunded. To up the supply of rental housing, they want the president to better support the National Housing Trust Fund—an affordable housing program created by candidate Julián Castro when he served as President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary.

“We have to get our [Community Development Block Grant] levels restored to back what they used to be,” said Fischer: The grants, which cities can apply for to fund public infrastructure and renovation projects, have been cut by almost $1 billion in the last 5 years. The HOME Program, which equips localities with federal funds to build affordable housing, has shrunk to almost half its former size since 2010. Mayors want that those cuts reversed.

“In Louisville, we have a need for 30,000 additional units” that meet particular affordability metrics, said Fischer. “Money is what’s required to get this program back on track.”

Though housing hasn’t been a major topic on the debate stage—much to the chagrin of advocates—democratic candidates like Castro, Warren, and Booker have released comprehensive housing plans for building the country’s housing stock and homeownership opportunities using tax adjustments and zoning reform. No mayor present on this week’s press call chose to comment on whether they were excited about a particular candidates’ plan, or whether they saw commonalities.

On climate, which Fischer called “the issue of our time,” the mayors again want federal dollars funneled more directly into cities, calling on the president and Congress to rejuvenate the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, which has so far given $3.2 billion to job-creating renewable energy and energy conservation programs; create tax breaks for electric vehicles buyers; reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions through incentives and grants; and fund (and support) more clean energy research.

And on guns, the mayors’ prescriptions were similarly urgent, calling for universal background checks and an assault weapon ban. Though many cities are preempted from taking these bold actions themselves, they’ve led in other ways: Dayton, Ohio mayor Nan Whaley, whose city saw a mass shooting this August that left 9 people dead, praised San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo for introducing liability insurance for gun owners, and Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto for banning high-capacity magazines.

While the U.S. Conference of Mayors has not endorsed a presidential candidate or the incumbent, and does not typically do so, individual city leaders have started staking their official support. In September, 58 mayors and former mayors, including prominent leaders like Dayton mayor Nan Whaley and Kansas City mayor Sly James, came out in support of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. After Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s former mayor, announced his bid for president this fall, Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, and a former president of USCM, and Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C., announced their support for him. Philadelphia’s mayor supports Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

On Friday, the mayors will present the plan to several Democratic candidates at the Local America Presidential Forum in Iowa. Among those expected to participate: former Newark, New Jersey mayor Corey Booker, former San Antonio, Texas mayor Julián Castro, and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, along with non-mayors Tom Steyer, the billionaire businessman, and Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Senator.

Overall, the agenda takes three I’s as its focus: Infrastructure, Innovation, and Inclusion. But its 12 policy suggestions span the whole alphabet, with immigration, education and workforce development, health care, and tax reform serving as other major planks.

While some of the desired outcomes will be hard to achieve if Donald Trump is reelected—on infrastructure, for example, the conference has lobbied the president heavily without much budging—Fischer says the document is “aspirational” under any presidency. “Mayors are practical,” added Barnett. “We want this to be able to be accomplished.”

As the Iowa primaries near, why should national candidates care what city leaders have to say? The U.S. Conference of Mayors argues that urban areas’ growing share of the population—86 percent—and of the GDP—91 percent—is argument enough.

“We’re closest to the people,” said Benjamin. “When the mayor tells you something, they know it’s the truth.”

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CityLab Daily: Wage Inequality Has Surged in American Cities

What We’re Following

Place a wager: Since 1980, America has shifted toward a knowledge-based economy that concentrates more people and jobs into a smaller number of leading “superstar” cities. That’s grown economic inequality between metro areas, but new research shows it has also generated another disparity within those places: the wage gap.

As America’s largest metro areas have grown, so has the gulf in pay, with wage growth for the highest-paid workers at roughly triple that for the lowest paid. In some cities, the disparity is even wider. Back in 1980, not a single one of the 10 largest metros in the country was among the most unequal for wages. By 2015, five of America’s 10 largest metros—New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington, D.C.—were ranked among the most unequal. CityLab’s Richard Florida has the details: Wage Inequality Has Surged in American Cities

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

The National Public Housing Museum Eyes a 2021 Opening

The museum will tell the history of American public housing in a remnant of a 1930s public housing complex on Chicago’s Near West Side.

Zach Mortice

What’s Really Behind the Native American Health Gap?

Melissa Walls of the Center for American Indian Health talks about the lasting health effects of “Indian Relocation” policies of the 1950s.

Linda Poon

The Mobile Dead Zone on Airplanes

Cell reception is bad after boarding because of the way airports are designed.

Christopher Schaberg

Why We Should Stop Conflating Cities With Innovation and Creativity

The language we use to discuss innovation and creativity has such a pro-urban bias that we’ve forgotten these qualities flourish outside of cities, too.

Richard Shearmur

Eyes on the Tweets

In response to our story last week about the

Navigation trouble is just one of the potential problems with naming transit stations after companies. Another: They give riders the misimpression that transit doesn’t need public money. Revisit Kriston Capps’ story on “namewashing” with Walker’s imagery in mind.

What We’re Reading

See how the world’s most polluted air compares with your city’s (New York Times)

Small American farmers are nearing extinction (Time)

What happened after Trump officials killed a school integration program (Chalkbeat)

The one-traffic-light town with some of the fastest internet in the U.S. (New Yorker)

New York has an old-timey plan to fix its traffic future (Wired)

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