Also: Labor organizing in Silicon Valley, and militarization of police isn’t making anyone safer.

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

***

What We’re Following

Too big to rail: One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Private companies (with some municipal subsidies) built huge rapid transit and streetcar networks that spread out from cities across the country, spurring the development of suburbs. New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston all boasted formidable subway and elevated rail systems.

An illustration shows children and construction of the D.C. metro system.
(WMATA/Shutterstock/Madison McVeigh/CityLab)

Today, outside a few major urban centers, public transit is clinging to life support. The private automobile is usually blamed for this sharp decline in ridership, but, as Jonathan English argues, near-total collapse was not inevitable. Instead, the operators of these struggling U.S. systems have been ignoring one key lesson about what drove riders away: Service drives demand. Today on CityLab, here’s why America stopped building transit.

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

John McCain’s Unlikely Legacy Project in Phoenix

In his final year, the senator worked to revitalize a long-abandoned riverfront project in central Arizona.

Karim Doumar

Work Habits Are Changing: Cities Need to Keep Up

What does work sprawl mean for urban planning?

Filipa Pajević and Richard Shearmur

Workers Rights, Silicon Valley-Style

In the technology industry, labor organizing can get tricky.

Tanvi Misra and Sarah Holder

Weirdly, Canals and Trains Made Pre-Civil-War Americans Smaller

Why a transportation revolution had some unanticipated side effects.  

Laura Bliss

Militarization of Local Police Isn’t Making Anyone Safer

Recent research shows that not only are militarized squads used disproportionately in communities of color, but contrary to claims, they reduce neither crime nor police injury or death.

Tanvi Misra


What We’re Reading

Why counting everyone in the census is hard (Vox)

The undocumented workers who built Silicon Valley (Washington Post)

How much hotter is your hometown than when you were born? (New York Times)

Why we should organize sidewalks as neatly as our homes (Curbed)

What if Houston’s survival depends on giving in to the flood? (Slate)


Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to hello@citylab.com.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Still from 'Game of Thrones' showing three characters trudging through a burning city.
    Design

    King’s Landing Was Always a Miserable Dump

    Game of Thrones’ destruction of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms revealed a city of mean living conditions and rampant inequality.

  2. A photo of shoppers in the central textile market of downtown Jakarta.
    Design

    How Cities Design Themselves

    Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

  3. A woman stands in a small, 1940s-era kitchen with white cabinets and a dining table.
    Design

    The Frankfurt Kitchen Changed How We Cook—and Live

    There are “dream kitchens,” and then there’s the Frankfurt Kitchen, designed by architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky in 1926.

  4. Design

    How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

    The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.

  5. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.