Also: Google Maps gets an update for natural disasters, and celebrating Baltimore’s metro.

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What We’re Following

Shrink wrap: Over the last 30 years, about 40 percent of all U.S. cities have seen their populations dwindle. The conventional narrative about “shrinking cities” evokes images of economically ravaged places where populations decline and job losses hit hard and fast—but population decline and economic decline don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

A new study finds that some cities with declining populations are actually prosperous: More than a quarter of them perform well on measures like income and talent. The findings suggest that these cities have made due with fewer people by attracting college graduates or by “planning for less,” but inequality remains an issue. CityLab’s Richard Florida takes a look at the latest data: How Some Shrinking Cities Are Still Prospering

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

Google Maps Wants to Help You Navigate During Natural Disasters

The app will offer crisis navigation warnings and provide detailed visual information about hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.

Linda Poon

It’s Time to Celebrate Baltimore’s Much-Maligned Metro

In 1987, the Maryland Transit Administration busted out a brass band to open a subway that never had a chance.

David Dudley

Why I Found My Community in a Starbucks

I was reluctant to support a corporate chain. But in my neighborhood, it’s one of the only places I could have formed a relationship with someone like Sammy.

Amir Khafagy

How Chicago Got a Lot Faster at Beach Water Warnings

Chicago is the only major U.S. city to use a new method to test for bacteria at most of its beaches—and then issue same-day swimming advisories.

Leslie Nemo

Why Are Zoning Laws Defining What Constitutes a Family?

It’s wrong to exclude safe uses of housing because of who belongs to a household. Like family law, zoning ordinances should prioritize functional families.

Kate Redburn

Street Smarts

Chautauqua Children's Safety Education Village

Many kids first learn to ride a bike in a parking lot where instructors use cones and tennis balls to represent obstacles on the street. That doesn’t do much to show kids what they’ll encounter on real roads, though. That’s where “safety towns” and “traffic gardens” show their value, using mock storefronts, stoplights, and potholes to let students put their safety education into practice.

The idea dates back to the 1930s, but more of these mini-streetscapes have popped up in the United States in recent years. Now researchers are studying how effective these realistic environments are at teaching kids to bike safely. “Traffic gardens are such a great tool because it’s not about lecturing, it’s about experiencing,” says a civil engineer who designs these tiny towns. On CityLab: How Tiny “Safety Towns” Give Kids Street Smarts

What We’re Reading

Americans need more neighbors (New York Times)

The nonwhite working class of Youngstown, Ohio (Slate)

Supreme Court spurns Virginia Republicans on racial gerrymandering case (Reuters)

Building a safer mid-block crossing (Streetsblog)

Planet Money: Are cities overrated? (NPR)

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