Welcome back! We hope you take some time off during the holidays. Don't worry — Axios Cities will still hit your inbox — but we'll be sending it the next two Tuesdays rather than Wednesdays due to the holiday calendar.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Uber is waging a battle against Los Angeles’ transportation department over the city's new data-sharing requirements for scooter and bike rentals, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
Why it matters: Uber is an unlikely champion of consumer privacy rights given its own privacy missteps, but privacy experts say LA's new standard could have a significant impact on urban transportation services and what data cities can access.
Last year, LA's Department of Transportation introduced the “mobility data specification,” or MDS, a data-sharing format that can be used by a city to collect and share information with companies operating on its streets.
Uber has ramped up its offense, specifically taking issue with the requirement to share real-time scooter trip data.
Between the lines: Scooters tend to be confined to certain areas in a city and riders usually walk a few feet to a few blocks to pick up the nearest one, so it doesn't provide a very full picture of users' travel behavior.
Where things stand: In October, LADOT revoked Uber’s scooter operating permit after the company said it would not comply with the real-time trip data sharing requirement.
The big picture: Uber has ambitions to become the go-to transportation tool, even beginning to add public transit into its app. So it's not surprising that it's pushing back on government moves that could throttle or compete with it.
Go deeper: Read Kia's full story.
Axios' Stef Kight and Courtenay Brown report: About a quarter of the U.S. population —and more than 8 in 10 residents of Detroit — live in areas likely to be difficult for the census to accurately count next year, according to census data analyzed by the Associated Press.
Why it matters: "Hard to count" often translates to underrepresentation. The 2020 census will be the basis for allocating political power and government funding for the next decade.
The big picture: State legislatures will refer to the newest census data in redrawing congressional districts next year. The population counts will determine how many congressional seats each state will receive.
By the numbers: In half of U.S. census tracts nationwide, more than 20% of the population is predicted to not respond to the initial census questionnaire.
New Mexico (41%), California (40%), Texas (39%) and Nevada (37%) have the highest share of people living in areas with low census response rates.
Jeff Marootian, D.C. director of transportation, speaks at an Axios event Dec.10. Photo: Jeffrey Snyder for Axios
The District of Columbia's transportation chief Jeff Marootian expects Amazon's new HQ2 to spur new transportation projects to help ease congestion and incentivize more sustainable transit.
Driving the news: Amazon got final approval for its second headquarters in Arlington County last week. Local residents have expressed concern that the new National Landing development and influx of new workers trying to get there every day will lead to more gridlock.
What he's saying: Marootian says those concerns "are opportunities for us to deliver new projects like new bridges, new pedestrian and bicycling facilities, to expand and improve on our metro system," adding that Amazon's presence "gives us that incentive and gives us a platform to build those exciting projects."
D.C. has many transit irons in the fire:
Scooters: The District DOT this month selected four companies — Uber-owned Jump, Lyft, Skip and Spin — to deploy up to 10,000 scooters starting in January.
Curbside management: The city entered a three-month pilot project with curbFlow, a curbside reservation company, to rein in the chaos on the curbs.
Congestion pricing: Highly trafficked parts of the city like Navy Yard and Chinatown already have dynamic parking pricing, meaning the cost of parking increases during peak times.
Also coming are more dedicated bus lanes, priority traffic signals for buses and redesigning busy corridors, like K Street Northwest.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
New Orleans agencies are still relying on pen and paper for some city work as security experts try to get to the bottom of an apparent ransomware attack that hit the government on Friday.
Why it matters: "This really is the new normal," said Gov. John Bel Edwards, per Nola.com. "It seems this is happening every week to 10 days here in Louisiana."
Details: The likely culprit in the New Orleans attack is a kind of ransomware called Ryuk that blocks access to data until a Bitcoin ransom is paid. The FBI is working with city officials on the forensic investigation. Nola.com has more.
The big picture: This year alone, 103 U.S. state and municipal governments were hit by ransomware attacks, according to a study by security company Emsisoft.
🎧 I talked about the issue on the Axios Pro Rata podcast this week. Listen here.
Photo: Interim Archives/Getty Images
San Francisco maintenance workers for Spin, a scooter rental company owned by Ford, have voted to unionize and joined a local Teamsters chapter, Kia reports.
Why it matters: The move makes the workers the first in the scooter industry to unionize. The union vote applies to the roughly 40 workers responsible for maintaining and managing Spin's scooters available in San Francisco.
The big picture: Spin initially began operating in San Francisco in the spring of 2018, along with rivals Bird and Lime, before all three companies were forced off the streets by regulators.
Between the lines: Spin began working with the Teamsters months ago while it was waiting for the San Francisco transportation agency to issue operating permits (it did not get one for an earlier pilot program, in part for poor labor practices), as the San Francisco Examiner reported at the time.
Photo: Axios video
Rolling out 5G networks is a big undertaking. It will take a decade or more for widespread coverage across the U.S.
Axios' video team broke down the top hurdles keeping 5G from rolling out right now:
Go deeper: 5G will see a wide rollout in 2020
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The great American housing engine slows☝️(Axios)
Trump's plan to criminalize homelessness is taking shape (CityLab)
A very uncivil war going down in America's most civil suburb (Washingtonian)
Cities of the new Silk Roads (Diplomatic Courier)
Axios Deep Dive: 2020's new voters will usher in an age of demographic transformation (Axios)
The shortage of small homes (Sightline Institute)
Tommy Speer helps a customer pick out a Christmas tree at Speer Family Farms in Alameda, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Demand for Christmas trees plummeted during the recession 10 years ago, so tree growers scaled back planting. Tree demand bounced back, but supply didn't.
Why it matters: Buyers are paying more for trees due to the shortage. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the average price of a tree was $36 in 2008. The price spiked to $78 in 2018.
The big picture: Drought conditions have also made growing more difficult. "We lose quite a few there because they dry out and die," Richard Kreh, who grows and sells Christmas trees in Stuart, Virginia, told ABC-13 WSET.
Yes, but: Despite the higher prices, business is booming as shoppers scrambled to find a tree this year.
We'll be back on Tuesday.