Also: More of CityLab’s most popular stories of 2019, and a next-generation trash bin.

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What We’re Following

Get smart: The smartphone—and the millions of apps that followed it—will go down as one of the most transformative technologies of the 2010s. And one of the primary agents for that transformation has been the city. Some of that change is plain for the eye to see: Companies like Uber, Instagram, Google Maps, and Airbnb have reshaped how we travel through and experience cities. Some of it is by its very nature hidden: Seemingly every object on the street can be made “smart” simply by gathering digital data to crunch, while the phones in our pockets tell companies where demand could go next.

CityLab’s Laura Bliss reflects on how the 2010s became app-addled and optimized: This Was the Decade That the City Became the App Store

Andrew Small


Most Popular CityLab Reads of 2019

Where Is the Best City to Live, Based on Salaries and Cost of Living?

Paychecks stretch the furthest in smaller cities for most workers, but techies continue to do best in larger, more expensive cities.

Richard Florida

The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

Jonathan English

How ‘Vasectomy Zoning’ Makes Childless Cities

Municipalities shouldn’t block or raise the cost of things young parents need, like day-care centers and two-bedroom houses or apartments.

Nolan Gray and Lyman Stone

How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords

American landlords derive more profit from renters in low-income neighborhoods, researchers Matthew Desmond and Nathan Wilmers find.

Richard Florida

We Mapped ‘the Midwest’ for You, So Stop Arguing

We surveyed more than 12,000 people (and counting) about the most contentious border question in the U.S. to reveal the true geography of America’s midsection.   

David Montgomery


Another’s Treasure

(Courtesy of NYC Department of Sanitation/Group Project)

In use since the 1930s, New York’s 23,000 steel litter baskets are ubiquitous but not without real problems: They can get heavy and their aesthetics are not to everyone’s liking. Earlier this month, New York announced a new design for public waste bins following its year-and-a-half-long “BetterBin” competition, which drew more than 200 submissions.

The competition’s winning entry, shown above, is sleeker, with a heavy-duty plastic bin partly nestled inside a metal stand. There are still a few tests that need to take place before you’ll see these new bins on the corner, but could this be the urban trash can of the future? CityLab’s Linda Poon takes a look: New York City Unveils a Next Generation Trash Can


What We’re Reading

A decade of urban transformation, seen from above (New York Times)

How much should New York charge for a parking space? A lot (Bloomberg)

Seattle shelter focuses on native peoples experiencing homelessness (NPR)

Welcome to the era of the post-shopping mall (New York Times)


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