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Lab Report

The Lab Report: Idealizing Main Street and Fixing the Gig Economy

A morning roundup of the day’s news.

Classic cars in a parade
Matt McKnight/Reuters

Welcome to The Lab Report, a new morning roundup of headlines that catch our eye at CityLab.

False nostalgia: Americans may be pre-wired to idealize “Main Street U.S.A.,” but a New York Times op-ed calls out the myth of that idea, pointing to the not necessarily evil realities of global economics and the Internet:

It’s worth noting that the idealized Main Street is not a myth in some parts of America today. It exists, but only as a luxury consumer experience. Main Streets of small, independent boutiques and nonfranchised restaurants can be found in affluent college towns, in gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn and San Francisco, in tony suburbs — in any place where people have ample disposable income. Main Street requires shoppers who don’t really care about low prices. The dream of Main Street may be populist, but the reality is elitist. “Keep it local” campaigns are possible only when people are willing and able to pay to do so.

When the sharing economy doesn’t share: If they aren't designed properly, services like Airbnb and Uber end up deepening social inequalities, a Tufts urban studies scholar argues. (Grist)

  • The New York Times editorial board chimes in this morning, saying Uber, Lyft, and other “gig economy” workers need new legal protections or they’ll find “the economy of the future an even more inhospitable place.”

Atlanta’s transit lessons for D.C.: As MARTA and its advocates nimbly step up to fill the transportation void from last month’s I-85 collapse, D.C. would be wise to take lessons for its struggling subway. (Washington Post)

Parking glut: The Economist warns of the consequences of free or too-cheap parking, critiquing the 11,000-space parking ocean at the new Apple headquarters and arguing for raising the costs of street parking.

Ben Carson’s big thoughts: In his first televised interview, HUD secretary Ben Carson sticks to broad platitudes while calling on rich city dwellers to help out their poor neighbors. (New York Times)

When your coffee shop drops words of wisdom on the way out the door. #citylabontheground

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About the Author

  • Katie Pearce writes the Lab Report, CityLab’s morning news roundup.