Also: Fire trucks are too big, and the tree that ruined your city’s Christmas.

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What We’re Following

An easier ride: Getting around a city like New York is a daily challenge for someone who uses a wheelchair. Less than a quarter of the city’s subway stations are accessible and its door-to-door paratransit is too often a no-show. While most can hop in an Uber or Lyft when the bus is late, a dearth of properly outfitted vehicles makes ride-hailing services implausible for wheelchair users: Of nearly 118,000 active ride-hailing vehicles in the city, only 554 (0.5 percent) are wheelchair-accessible, according to a recent study that cites the city’s data. The takeaway: The unreliability of locating and waiting for a vehicle renders the services “useless” to wheelchair users.

Ride-hailing companies say they want to help change this. Last month, for example, Uber announced a partnership with one of the country’s largest paratransit providers. But the ride-hailing app has also argued in court that it is a technology company, not a transportation provider, and is therefore not subject to transportation-related measures in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Accessibility advocates say the company can take some clear steps toward improving things: “Instead of spending $100 million to defend a lawsuit, put a hundred vehicles on the road,” one advocate says. “Show that you’re trying to make progress.” Today on CityLab: Ride-Hailing’s Long Road to Accessibility

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

The Fire Trucks Are Too Damn Big

Smaller heavy-duty emergency vehicles could save a lot of lives, says a new Department of Transportation report.

Laura Bliss

Urban Flooding Is Worryingly Widespread in the U.S., But Under-Studied

When flooding occurs in a small town or just part of a city, it doesn’t register like a big disaster does, according to the first-ever nationwide assessment.

Linda Poon

Revisiting Architect Paul Rudolph’s Hong Kong Years

A new exhibit highlights the Modernist architect’s little-known designs made while working in Asia.

Mark Byrnes

Parents Are Biased Against Even Quality ‘Urban’ Schools

Many of these schools are improving, but the persistent stigma against them contributes to segregation.

Alia Wong

City Frogs Are the Sexiest Frogs

Two new studies show how certain animals can adapt to the din of human activity in surprising ways.

Ed Yong


Oh, Christmas Tree

Last year, Rome's city Christmas tree was pretty ghastly. This year's might be even ghastlier. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)

Getting it together by the holidays has always been one way to signal that an institution, whether it’s a municipality or a family, is functioning properly. Last year, Rome learned that the hard way when its 65-foot Christmas tree drooped sadly and was pronounced dead a week before the holiday. It was nicknamed Spelacchio, which in Italian translates to either “mangy” and “bald.”

As Charlie Brown learned, screwing up the tree can be a springboard to bigger problems. Cities worldwide have long had to deal with the fallout from coniferous fails—from Reading, Pennsylvania’s pretzel-topped failure in a state full of evergreens to a notorious Paris installation that looked like an adult toy. A word of advice to cities: Just get a real tree. CityLab’s Sarah Holder has the roundup on all the many ways cities screw up their Christmas trees.


What We’re Reading

London’s mayor declares “climate emergency” (The Guardian)

The behavioral economics behind Citi Bike’s bike angels (NPR)

How Sesame Street takes on homelessness (New York Times)

Amazon warehouse employees in NYC launch unionization push (Bloomberg)

The Republican civil war over criminal justice reform, explained (Vox)


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