Also: Revisiting the new urban crisis, and the amazing psychology of Japanese train stations.

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What We’re Following

Eyes on the streets: Orlando is testing a different kind of streaming video service from Amazon: a real-time facial recognition system that can track and identify people on the street.

As NPR reports, the ACLU uncovered the information on Amazon’s Rekognition software and its potential applications. Amazon’s Ranju Das recently highlighted the pilot at a conference in Seoul, saying Orlando has “cameras all over the city... If they want to know if the mayor of the city is in a place or if we have a person of interest that we track, we can send the response.” The software could even be used to reconstruct an individual's past movements, as shown in a video demo of the software.

An Orlando Police Department spokesman told The New York Times they don’t have plans to use it that way, and that it isn’t currently being used in investigations or public spaces. Still, privacy advocates are sounding the alarm. “Amazon Rekognition is primed for abuse in the hands of governments,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to Jeff Bezos on Tuesday, saying it’s especially threatening to immigrant communities and people of color.

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Revisiting the New Urban Crisis

The shift toward a more inclusive urbanism has begun. But it will require time, commitment from city institutions, and political agency at the local level.

Richard Florida

The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

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

Allan Richarz

The Ancient Forests That Have Defied Urbanization

In cities around the United States, old-growth forests have survived against the odds. But preserving them is not as simple as roping them off from the public.

Allison C. Meier

Federal Law Leaves Marijuana in a No-Fly Zone

Federal regulations mean that passengers flying from one weed-legal destination to another with their personal stash may still be breaking the law, but in at least one U.S. airport, that weed can fly.

Leslie Nemo

Mapping Palestine Before Israel

A new open-source project uses British historical maps to reveal what Palestine looked like before 1948.

Mimi Kirk


Slow Your Roll

Chart showing transit commuting trends 1960-2016
(Yonah Freemark/The Transport Politic)

Don’t sound the transit death knell yet. Yonah Freemark argues on The Transport Politic that while we’re seeing a steady decline in transit ridership, there are reasons to believe it won’t be a permanent shift. As the chart above shows, the share of commuters using transit to get to work in major transit cities has been shrinking for decades. The current decline, though, comes after a peak, when ridership increased 35 percent from 1996 to 2014. CityLab context: What’s behind America’s decline in transit ridership?


What We’re Reading

In Jersey City, it’s a race between Kushner and Kushner to develop (New York Times)

How architecture can rebuild itself post-#MeToo (Curbed)

The more prestigious your college degree, the farther you’ll move after getting it (Slate)

Diverse schools do more to promote tolerance than simply living in a diverse community (Quartz)

The unusually powerful perch of the MTA chief (New York Times)


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