Also: How I. M. Pei and Boston made each other, and flying cars are real.
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What We’re Following
Street fight: Is Uber a transportation company or just an app that connects riders with drivers? That distinction has big consequences for deciding who regulates the company, and how they do it. While many local, state, and national governments around the world have grappled with this question, in Buenos Aires, it’s a battle that’s playing out in the streets.
Uber asserts that it is a “connecting app,” rather than a taxi operation, but the Argentinian government disagrees. It says drivers are operating illegally and subject to steep fines if caught. Drivers, as a result, prefer cash payments and pick up passengers discreetly. Some have even faced attacks from taxi vigilantes called “Uber hunters.” Meanwhile, the government is demanding unpaid taxes from Uber and hindering credit card payments to the company. “When Uber is legal, maybe they’ll reclaim this debt,” one Uber driver in the country tells CityLab. “But I don’t think Uber cares. Why? Because Buenos Aires—Argentina—we’re a little town to them. Nothing. Zero. Uber doesn’t care because it has the whole world.” Today on CityLab: The Dangerous Standoff Between Uber and Buenos Aires
More on CityLab
“They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.
“They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.
The New York Times has the first two parts of its 10-month-long investigation into New York City’s taxi medallion bubble. How these permits rose to a value of $1 million before crashing in late 2014 looks a lot like the 2008 housing crisis: A confluence of reckless lending practices and a lack of regulation across state and city agencies led to cheerleading medallions as a vehicle for long-term investment that left thousands drivers with loans they couldn’t afford to pay. The city, meanwhile, earned more than $855 million from medallions under the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations. Read part 1 and part 2 of the New York Times investigation.
CityLab context: Taxi driver suicides are a warning to us all
What We’re Reading
The suburbs are coming to a city near you (New York Times)
This town didn’t want to be a radioactive waste dump. It has no choice. (Earther)
Why racial disparities in asthma are an urban planning problem (Next City)
Podcast: Sound and health in cities (99 Percent Invisible)