A derailed Amtrak 501 is pictured.
Steve Dipaola/Reuters

The Amtrak that crashed in Washington had a “positive train control” system, but it wasn’t activated, NTSB says.

Good afternoon! You have been randomly selected to receive a preview of our new and improved daily newsletter as we test a new format. We'll highlight the most significant developments and ideas in cities each day, without wasting your time. In the second section, you’ll find the same list of stories from our traditional newsletter. This is a work in progress, and we want you to help us make it better. Send us your feedback and ideas at hello@citylab.com.


Train derailment: Speed seems to be a factor in Monday’s crash of Amtrak 501 outside Tacoma, Washington. The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday night that the train was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a curve zoned for 30 miles per hour, leading to the crash that killed at least three people.

President Trump was quick to tie the incident to his wish-listed infrastructure plan, but as ABC notes, this train wasn’t crumbling. In fact, the Cascades line had just had a multimillion dollar upgrade to allow for faster service, and this was its inaugural run. The locomotives were even equipped with “positive train control,” a modern safety system would automatically brake during dangerous situations like excessive speed, though it was not yet activated. Federal law requires all railroads to have the safety feature by the end of 2018. We’re tracking this story. Send tips to hello@citylab.com.

Lend us your ears: The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts has been criticized for its “size and opulence,” as well its isolation from the rest of D.C. Now a major expansion will add more public spaces and a connection to the nearby Potomac waterfront. Listen in as CityLab contributing editor Amanda Kolson Hurley gives the Washington City Paper podcast a tour and architectural review.

More on CityLab

Teaching Civility in the Age of Trump: As bias incidents at American schools surge, one Maryland high school requires all freshman to take a new course designed to encourage open minds and civil dialogue.  

What’s Missing From Amazon's HQ2 Search: Amazon made no mention of climate change in its request for proposals, and most of the public city bids don’t address it, either.

The Great Retail Retrofit: The “retail apocalypse” affords a unique opportunity to turn retail stores and malls into more productive community spaces.

Berlin's Upcoming Bike Revolution: A new law could see the city’s cycling infrastructure completely transformed.

The Backlash Against Piped Music: This holiday season, groups in Michigan and the U.K. are asking for fewer jingle bells, more silent nights in public spaces.

The Hidden Rooms Within New York's Public Housing: A new study from New York’s Independent Budget Office reveals that nearly a third of public housing units are under-occupied, often by older residents living alone. But can the city find a humane fix?

Eyes on the Tweets

Who’s claiming State and Local Tax deductions? The map below breaks it down by congressional district.

Tweet from @richardcauxier

At the state level, SALT deductions follow along partisan lines. In 2014, the average deduction claimed in blue states such as California ($17,100) and New York ($21,000) dwarfed claims in red states such as Texas ($7,600) or Tennessee ($5,300).

What We’re Reading

Urban planning has a sexism problem (Next City)

Is Google Street View the next Census tool? (Fast Company)

Cities with Uber have lower rates of ambulance usage (NPR)

The software engineer who spoke out against sexual harassment at Uber (Financial Times)

Obama’s clemency recipients, one year later (The Marshall Project)

Dockless bikeshare will be messy—and worth it (Slate)

What’s going on in your neighborhood? Send stories, tips, and feedback to hello@citylab.com.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A view of traffic near Los Angeles.

    How Cars Divide America

    Car dependence not only reduces our quality of life, it’s a crucial factor in America’s economic and political divisions.

  2. Life

    Why We Blame Millennials For Everything

    Malcolm Harris argues that grim realities are driving the disdain for Gen Y.

  3. Life

    Don’t Throw It Away—Take It to the Repair Cafe

    This series of workshops aims to keep broken items out of the landfill, and it might help you save a few bucks, too.

  4. A man bikes down a busy London street with a food-delivery box on the back of his bike.

    The Rise of ‘Urban Tech’

    From food-delivery startups to mapping and co-living companies, technology focused on urban systems is drawing billions of dollars in venture capital.

  5. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.