Also: Should designers reform immigrant detention? And a “zen mode” for ride-hailing apps.
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What We’re Following
Garden mind: Philadelphia has more than 43,000 vacant lots, often overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash. As the city has scrambled to sell the lots for redevelopment, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has tried something different: turning some into parks and community gardens. These efforts aren’t just making the city greener—according to a new study, they’re also improving people’s mental health.
Where these “greening interventions” took place, residents reported feeling less depressed, especially near some of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. And it’s not just a placebo effect: The study design gets at whether that positive feeling really is because the grass is greener. CityLab’s Linda Poon has the details on the healing potential of turning vacant lots green.
More on CityLab
Don’t lament the lost art of navigating by compass in the age of the smartphone. While some city grids make a lot of sense by cardinal directions, others were never all that intuitive to begin with. A new interactive from urban planning scholar Geoff Boeing calculates the “logic” of a city based on how streets line up to a compass and plots it on a circular bar chart. The geography technique itself is not exactly new, as CityLab’s David Montgomery explains, but the tool is a mesmerizing way of visualizing the hidden “logic” of cities.
What We’re Reading
Charlotte moves toward a car-free city center (Next City)
The life of an electric scooter can be short, nasty, and brutish (Washington Post)
Why China’s megacities have hit the limits of growth (Slate)
Seattle’s real estate boom is driving up transit costs (Streetsblog)
Five theories of why Trump is obsessed with the brutalist FBI building (New York)