Also: A graphical guide to the retail apocalypse, and the year of the YIMBY.

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What We’re Following

Earlier this month, council members in Columbus, Ohio, approved $1 million for an unusual purpose: Starting in June 2019, the city will pilot a ride-hailing service to get expectant moms to their doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, and other daily essentials.

The “prenatal trip assistance” program will be small—lasting six months and serving 500 women—but it’s incredibly important. Franklin County has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the U.S., with 150 infant deaths per year. Transportation is one strand in a web of reasons for this: Pregnant women who can’t find a ride to prenatal care visits are that much more likely to give birth preterm, the leading cause of infant death. Stress also plays a role, and unreliable transportation, among other conditions of poverty and race, can wear a person down.

So there were high hopes in 2016, when Columbus won a $50 million USDOT grant to use cutting-edge technology to improve the transportation system. The city committed as a focal point of its proposal to lift up low-income, pregnant women of color at highest risk for unhealthy pregnancies. But when I visited in late 2017, those promises had faded; there were no plans for a prenatal trip pilot, even as the city moved ahead on autonomous vehicle testing and other futuristic ideas.

My subsequent article sparked more conversation about whom urban technology is really for. And, after it was published, Columbus altered its DOT-approved project list to include a program for pregnant moms. So finally, next year, some women in Columbus will see a “smarter city” after all. Read my story today on CityLab: In Columbus, Expectant Moms Will Get On-Demand Rides to the Doctor

Laura Bliss


More on CityLab

The Retail Apocalypse, in 6 Charts and a Map

Store closures are up as online shopping grows—but other measures suggest brick-and-mortar retail is still doing OK.

David Montgomery

The Year of the YIMBY

A milestone upzoning plan in Minneapolis capped a year that saw pro-housing forces duel NIMBYs in cities nationwide.

Kriston Capps

When a Jail Becomes a Homeless Shelter

King County, Washington’s plan stoked concerns about the link between homelessness and incarceration. Local leaders say they have a moral obligation to do what they can.

Hallie Golden

How the Tuberculosis Epidemic Influenced Modernist Architecture

Light, air, and hygiene were not just aesthetic preoccupations of the early Modernists: They were the best treatment for tuberculosis at the time.

Elizabeth Yuko

5 Ways to Recycle Christmas Trees

They don't all have to go into the chipper.

Linda Poon


What We’re Reading

A millionaire paid Jews to move to a small town in Alabama. Now, a couple struggle with their choice. (Washington Post)

Roommates wanted. Trump supporters need not apply. (New York Times)

A California city plans to shred years of police records before a new law makes them public (Vox)

San Francisco added 6,500 residents, 2,200 homes in 2018 (Curbed SF)

“I feel invisible”: Native students languish in public schools (New York Times)


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