Bruno Kelly/Reuters

A lesson in an essential element of summer.

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.

***

Cities are growing at a faster rate than any other habitat on the planet, as Planet Earth II noted in its “Cities” episode. Sure, describing cities as a “habitat” is a little jarring, but the urban landscape is so much more than people, buildings, and roads. Everything from preserving wild forests to creating planned public parks from scratch reveals how much we strive to remain part of nature.

With benefits including reduced crime, improved health, and increased home values, urbanist parlance can quantify the gains from these natural “amenities.” You might say nature’s true value can’t be measured, but even those feel-good thoughts have science backing them up: It really is good for you.

From the CityLab archives:

Andrew Small


Summer Icon: The Road Trip

An animated map shows the growth of the U.S. Interstate Highway system.
(GeoTab)

The road trip is a classic staple of American life—there’s even an obsessively detailed map of cross-country travels in American literature. But despite the cliche, roadside attractions and novelties continue to fascinate, from awesome diner food to jaw-dropping rest stops. Last summer, our CityLab on the Road series detailed the towns and characters that sprung up along the Lincoln Highway, the first cross-country road in the United States, dedicated in 1913.

In 1956, the U.S. began building a much more ambitious—and sometimes infamous—countrywide road network: the Interstate Highway System. The map above from Geotab, a GPS-based fleet-tracking management company, shows how the network evolved over time to become a nationwide system of more than 49,000 miles, making road journeys accessible from nearly any city. President Eisenhower’s massive public works project marked a dramatic shift in United States road building, from constructing public trails that connected cities to massive highways that gutted them. While that wasn’t the plan at the start, some scholars have argued that the Interstate Highway System should have been two separate systems: roads between cities and roads within cities.


Ground Numbers

330 million: Visitors to National Park Service parks in 2017

1.3: Square miles in New York City taken up by Central Park

17: Square miles in New York City taken up by on-street parking

$5.82: Estimated public benefit delivered for each dollar spent planting trees

50 million: New trees Britain plans to plant to create a coast-to-coast forest

10 billion: Tons of concrete produced around the world each year


More on CityLab

We Need to Talk About Farting on the Subway

Reminder to everyone lost in their screens and headphones on public transportation: You are really here.

Stephanie Fairyington

Hook Local Startups, Not the HQ2 Whale

City leaders will find that cultivating relationships with small homegrown companies is smarter—and cheaper—than trying to lure in an outside behemoth.  

David Zipper

‘Climate Gentrification’ Will Deepen Urban Inequality

A new study investigates the intersection of climate change and real estate, and finds that higher elevations bring higher values.

Richard Florida

Paris Maps the Best Places to Avoid the Summer Heat

A cool-seeking app and a butt-cooling bench are the latest tools to help people cool down.

Feargus O'Sullivan

Lyft Is Reaching L.A. Neighborhoods Where Taxis Wouldn’t

With a rare look at trip data from the ride-hailing giant, a UCLA researcher finds promising equity results.

Laura Bliss

A Musical Escape From Late-Apartheid Johannesburg

In the 1980s, the South African band Umoja made upbeat pop hits under the watchful eye of the South Africa Broadcast Corporation. It’s impossible not to love “Money, Money.”

Mark Byrnes

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Elizabeth Warren’s Ambitious Fix for America’s Housing Crisis

    The Massachusetts Democrat introduced legislation that takes aim at segregation, redlining, restrictive zoning, and the loss of equity by low-income homeowners.

  2. Equity

    Why Affordable Housing Isn’t More Affordable

    Local regulations—and the NIMBY sentiments behind them—are a big driver of costs of low-income housing developers. Why don’t we know exactly how much?

  3. Transportation

    Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars.)

    Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.

  4. A large factory in the desert
    Life

    Some Rural Counties Are Seeing a Job Boom, Too

    Economic growth is a mixed bag in urban and rural counties, large and small.

  5. Barack Obama hugs Rahm Emanuel as Michelle Obama looks on.
    Design

    After Rahm, What Comes Next for the Obama Library?

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to step down may give critics of the library plan more time and room to negotiate.