Also: The quest for quiet in New York City, and the Squirrel Census results are here.

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What We’re Following

On the road again: Every year, state and local governments around the United States set their sights on big new highway projects, promising to address the demands of congestion, aging infrastructure, and a growing population. As these projects jockey for federal funds, the transportation needs they’re supposed to be addressing often go unexamined, while the costs to taxpayers grow ever larger.

For the past five years, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group has compiled an annual list of the worst “highway boondoggles,” calling out some of the country’s most spendy and questionable roadways. This year’s culprits include a highway expansion in the heart of Portland, a six-lane corridor in Raleigh, a proposal to fatten a Houston highway, and a High Desert Freeway to connect California’s Inland Empire—plus five others. Together, they are set to consume about $25 billion, driven by a formula that encourages driving at the expense of other, less costly transportation alternatives. CityLab’s Laura Bliss digs into the report: Americans Are Spending Billions on Bad Highway Expansions

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

My Quixotic Quest for Quiet in New York City

In a booming city, the din of new construction and traffic can be intolerable. Enter Hush City, an app to map the sounds of silence.   

John Surico

The Squirrel Census Answers a Question You Weren’t Asking

How many squirrels live in New York City’s Central Park? Finding the answer was surprisingly complicated.

Linda Poon

A Water-Stressed World Turns to Desalination

Desalination is increasingly being used to provide drinking water around the globe. But it remains expensive and creates its own environmental problems.

Jim Robbins

A Local Crisis Calls Pete Buttigieg Back to City Hall

For all those nationally who’ve been dazzled by the mayor, the voters of South Bend aren’t satisfied with his response to a fatal police shooting last week.

Edward-Isaac Dovere

How Should We Define the Suburbs?

Based on census boundaries, ways of life, and physical characteristics, respectively, three new definitions offer a composite portrait of American suburbia.

Richard Florida


Pollen Nation

Ariel Aberg-Riger

Bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators are crucial to helping plants reproduce. Without them, about 90 percent of the world’s wild flowers couldn’t survive, nor would many of the plants we rely on for food. But cities are finding ways to protect pollinators, in part through urban gardens they can consider “home.” The efforts don’t have to be citywide: They can take hold in places as small as a backyard, community garden, or windowsill box. And there are all sorts of ways humans can help their flower-loving neighbors thrive. Visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger shares the story: How Birds and Bees Survive in the City


What We’re Reading

L.A.-to-Vegas and back by electric car means eight hours of driving, five hours of charging (New York Times)

Your business-casual office is killing the planet (Outside)

Can coworking companies sell inclusive communities? (Curbed)

How 9 people built an illegal $5 million Airbnb empire in New York (Wired)

Trump postpones ICE’s planned deportation raids in big cities (Vox)


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