Also: Floating cities aren’t the answer, and weird ways to get a free ride.

What We’re Following

At last: We probably don’t need to tell you that U.S. cities have changed dramatically over the last 20 years, but that story is often told in broad brush strokes. While a wave of gentrification and its accompanying displacement has seized parts of the biggest and wealthiest cities, it still may not be the dominant form of urban change. The more common transformation that Americans experience is the concentration of poverty, especially in the suburbs. To get at the bigger context, a new national-level atlas maps out neighborhood change over the last two decades in America’s 50 largest metro areas.

Washington, D.C., tops the list of cities with the highest displacement. (Will Stancil/University of Minnesota)

The interactive map allows users to see population shifts at the regional level, showing how growth in central cities and suburbs may be happening on the ground. That context is key. “If you ask, ‘Who won a basketball game?’ and someone says, ‘Well, the Lakers scored 80,’ you need to know what the other team scored, what happened on the other side, to really get a full picture,” a researcher tells CityLab’s Tanvi Misra. Read her story: A National Atlas of Neighborhood Change

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

No, We’re Not All Going to Move to Floating Cities

UN-Habitat is looking at high-tech urban islands as a potential survival fix for communities at risk from climate change. This isn’t what resilience looks like.

Amanda Kolson Hurley

The Uncertain Future of D.C.’s Cherry Blossoms

The cherry trees at the Tidal Basin look beautiful, but daily flooding at high tide and crumbling infrastructure are threatening their survival.

Nicole Javorsky

When People Move Into Tiny Homes, They Adopt Greener Lifestyles

Every major component of a downsizer’s lifestyle is influenced, including food, transportation, and consumption of goods and services.

Maria Saxton

When Weird Things Get You a Free Ride

The Netherlands recently let train travelers ride free if they carried a book. Here are other strange offers that covered the cost of transit fare.

Feargus O'Sullivan

A Zine That Captures the Many Faces of Washington, D.C.’s Metro Riders

Photographer Patrick Wright carried his camera on the city’s rapid transit system for four years, taking photos of over a thousand riders.

Nicole Javorsky


Veggie Tale

Changing the food culture of a community, let alone a diverse and divided nation of 328 million souls, is a matter of redirecting, reframing and in some cases remaking traditions, habits, expectations and the physical environment—of changing what is normal in people’s lives. That takes time.

The Washington Post has a fascinating story today about Huntington, West Virginia—dubbed America’s fattest city in 2008—and how it slimmed down. It was no quick fix: A fresh food market worked to make local produce more accessible, schools and churches put a greater emphasis on healthy eating, and the city encouraged residents to get more active by building bike trails and hosting walks with the mayor. That approach, it turns out, works better than lecturing people about fast food. Read the Post’s story: This Appalachian town was America’s ‘fattest city.’ Here’s how it slimmed down.

CityLab context: Are We Thinking About Urban Food Deserts the Wrong Way?


What We’re Reading

“Retail apocalypse” now: Analysts say 75,000 stores could close by 2026 (Washington Post)

Foxconn is confusing the hell out of Wisconsin (The Verge)

Today’s design leaders reflect on 100 years of Bauhaus (Curbed)

As U.S. communities resist ICE, private prison companies are cashing in (Quartz)

Letter from a drowned canyon: The story of water in the West and climate change (California Sunday)


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