Congestion in some cities tripled this holiday season.

Hello! You have been randomly selected to receive a preview of our new and improved daily newsletter as we test a new format. Just a heads up: Next week you’ll receive our traditional daily newsletter again, and we’ll pick this back up in the new year. Thanks for all the feedback this week, and please keep it coming:


Sprawl I want for Christmas is you: Whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, holiday travel is a slog. Believe it or not, the worst holiday road congestion might be behind us, but some cities have seen travel times multiply to three times their normal length. There’s just no app that free you from old-fashioned traffic... and don’t get your hopes up for driverless cars to make it better, either.

TSA watch: If you’re flying out of the U.S., you should be aware that the Department of Homeland Security is testing a facial recognition system at airports in nine cities. American citizens have the option to opt out, but it might not be immediately clear when going through TSA lines. “DHS should not be scanning the faces of Americans as they depart on international flights—but DHS is doing it anyway,” Georgetown Law warns in a new report.

Today on CityLab

The Evolution of Airline Safety Videos: Since 2007, straight-laced, utilitarian safety videos have steadily been replaced by self-parodying, pop culture riffs. Here’s how it happened.

A Midcentury Shopping Icon Makes Way For the Future: Victor Gruen’s Northland Center set suburban architectural standards for half a century. Now, partially demolished, its next life is up in the air.

A Prayer for Park Slope: A prayer request box on the streets outside Brooklyn’s Grace United Methodist Church is an effort by a shrinking congregation to serve its changing neighborhood.

Memphis Found a Novel Strategy for Tearing Down Confederate Statues: In a surprise move Wednesday evening, the city sold two parks to a nonprofit corporation that promptly tore down monuments to Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis.

Driverless Cars Could Make Transportation Free for Everyone—With a Catch: Want a gratis ride? You’ll just have to stop at some stores along the way.

Revisiting the Subtle Side of British PoMo: Today’s design debates push the architectural style’s bells and whistles into a prize fight against Brutalism. But much of the its strength emerges in a different area.

Eyes on the Tweets

Tweet from @ByRosenberg

An ice cold truth: Seattle Times’s Mike Rosenberg writes that since 1960, rent in the U.S. has grown 87 percent while renter incomes grew only 11 percent. In that same time, the median share of income spent on rent increased from 15.6 percent to 25.6 percent, which works out to a net loss of $3,800 a year for renters in 2016. (Those stats, and much more, from Apartment List.)

What We’re Reading

Desperate to fight the opioid crisis, jurisdictions in Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan filed lawsuits this week against drug companies. (New York Times)

Frank Gehry has never built a prison, unless you count the Simpsons (The Marshall Project)

How the tax bill affects five different households (The Motley Fool)

Zen and the art of guerilla freeway signs (Los Angeles Times)

With autonomous cars, who buys the insurance? (Next City)

Charlottesville renames a street for Heather Heyer (The Hill)

Justice Department revokes 25 legal guidelines to state and local judges (New York Times)

What’s going on in your neighborhood? Send stories, tips, and feedback to

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

    Nearly 80 years ago, a construction standstill derailed the subway’s progress, leading to its present crisis. This is the story, decade by decade.

  2. Environment

    New 'Mutant Enzymes' Could Solve Earth's Plastics Problem

    Scientists accidentally created an enzyme that can break down plastic. But is it any better than recycling?

  3. Equity

    What Drives the Black-White Wealth Gap?

    A new paper debunks various myths about the wealth gap between blacks and whites in the United States, and the methods for bridging it.

  4. A plain-clothed police officer mans a position behind the counter at the Starbucks that has become the center of protests in Philadelphia.

    Suspiciously Black in Starbucks

    Starbucks doesn't need to close its stores for bias trainings. It needs to change its entire design so that it doesn’t merely reflect the character of host neighborhoods, especially if that character is racist.

  5. A sign warns non-resident drivers to avoid using a street in Leonia, New Jersey.

    What Happens When a City Bans Non-Resident Drivers?

    Besieged by commuters taking Waze-powered shortcuts, Leonia, New Jersey, closed its side streets to non-residents. Not everyone is happy with the results.