Ph.D. in Urban Planning / Recent Graduates
Evaluating Neighborhood Environments for Urban Heat Island Analysis and Reduction
by Paul Coseo
Measuring Accessibility for Residential Location Choice: Beyond the Dichotomy of Local and Regional
by Xuan Liu
Travel demand forecasting has been a key component of long range planning at Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in the United States. Research advancements have led to incorporating transportation accessibility into household and business location choice analysis and forecasting. The dynamic feedback effects between transportation and land use have been studied using accessibility measures with mixed results. This dissertation examines multiple aspects of accessibility and their effects on residential location choice. First, while accessibility has been dichotomized into local regional accessibility, this study suggests that a mid-range accessibility may have an independent and statistically significant effect on residential location choice. Second, accessibility metrics have traditionally been indifferent to the clustering of destinations. This dissertation tests the idea that, in addition to amount of activities, clustering of activities also contributes to accessibility. Models that explicitly incorporate clustering into measures of accessibility may show stronger explanatory power in predicting residential location choice than models that do not incorporate clustering into accessibility measures. Third, this study compares the effects of place-based accessibility measures and personal commute time on residential location choice. Finally, this dissertation develops alternative models for analyzing residential location choice in regard to accessibility for various socio-economic groups of population, particularly by race and ethnicity, as well as alternative models at three levels of geographic scale, which are metropolitan region, county, and city, for assessing the effects of scale on accessibility. Research hypotheses in this dissertation are tested using multinomial logit models estimated for Detroit metropolitan area based on data from 2004 to 2010. The results show that local, mid-range, and regional accessibility measures affect residential location choice significantly, while the effects of clustering need further study. Individual workers' commute time has the biggest impact on residential location choice. This is found to be true at multiple geographic levels in Detroit region. The purpose of the study is to contribute to understanding the effects of accessibility in residential location choice, developing innovative tools for measuring accessibility that incorporate clustering and at multiple geographic scales, improving land use and transportation modeling practice, and eventually helping development of land use and transportation policies.
Building Alliances: Power and Politics in Urban India.
by Neha Sami
With economic liberalization, several new actors, like international consultants, financial institutions, and foreign architects and designers, have emerged in urban India. Others like politicians, real estate developers, landowners, civil society groups and government bureaucrats are reinventing themselves to adapt to and take advantage of a rapidly transforming urban environment. Building on primary and secondary data collected in India over 2008-09, this dissertation examines the role that developers, landowners, politicians, business leaders, citizen groups and civic activists play in post-liberalization urban India, and the alliances they form to achieve specific developmental and governance objectives. Building on theories of western urban politics, writing on contemporary urban India and theories of globalization this thesis argues that, increasingly, Indian cities are being shaped by coalitions between various key actors that include participants both from within government and outside. In this dissertation, I examine how a minority of well-connected urban elites (ranging from landed farmers to business executives and financial consultants) is able to leverage personal social and political networks to form ad-hoc coalitions. Studying power structures in two Indian cities: Bangalore and Pune, I find that planning and policy processes are increasingly being shaped by a minority of elites in Indian cities that focus largely on the interests of a sub-section of the urban population. These elite actors rely not only on formal planning processes but also on more informal means of exerting influence and gaining access to power through personal community, caste and other social networks. The actions of such elite groups are being given legitimacy and are gradually being institutionalized through various governmental policy and legislative reforms at the national, state and municipal level. Data from Bangalore and Pune show that the national government's reform program and its implementation by the state governments is privileging the participation of (mostly elite) non-state actors that come from and serve the interests of specific urban residents, typically higher-income groups, at the cost of other urban populations. Consequently, a more hybrid model of planning is emerging in Indian cities, in which elite non-state actors are working together with governmental actors to plan and govern Indian cities.
The New Food Agenda: Municipal Food Policy and Planning for the 21st Century.
by Deirdra Stockmann
For most of the 20th century, cities restricted agricultural activities through ordinances and aggressively pursued "higher and better uses" of industry, commerce, and housing. Yet, today, cities across the United States are challenging the exclusion of agriculture and related food systems and rethinking how it can be a vital dimension of the landscape and local economy. Citizens, community leaders, and city officials are engaging in dynamic dialogues about how to integrate food system activities into the urban fabric. But local governments do not take on new work and new issues lightly, particularly in times of austerity. How is food finding its way in? In this thesis, I investigate why Benton Harbor, Michigan, Flint, Michigan, and Cleveland, Ohio, entered into food system planning and policymaking. Based on analysis of in-depth interviews, document review, and direct observation, I discuss the roles and motivations of advocates who came together to put food on the municipal policy agenda, and consider the political, economic and social contexts that influenced their advocacy strategies. Consistent with theories of the policy process, I argue that local governments are compelled to add food system issues to their agenda when effective advocacy coalitions demonstrate widespread popular support for the proposed food policy and strategically link desired policy actions to issues important to decision-makers, such as unemployment, vacant land, and social equity. Several dimensions of the socio-political context diminish opportunities for policy change including limited government capacity, high administrative turnover, and disagreement over whether allowing food production would help or hinder economic development goals. This study identifies two opportunities for improving policy process theory to apply to the local context. First, I propose a construct of the "local mood" to capture the collective and ever-changing sense of city identity, which influences how local decision-makers and citizens view a new policy issue such as urban agriculture. Second, these cases suggest that the municipal policy development process is more iterative and collaborative than the national process, on which most theories are based, due in part to the closer proximity of citizen-advocates to policymakers.
Land Use, Land Conservation, and Wind Energy Development Outcomes in New England.
by William Cameron Weimar
This dissertation provides three independent research inquiries. The first examines how inter-governmental policy, site-specific, and social factors lead to the success, prolonged delay, or failure of inland wind power projects in New England. The three case studies examined include the 48 megawatt Glebe Mountain Wind Farm proposal in southern Vermont, the 30 megawatt Hoosac Wind Farm in western Massachusetts, and the 24 megawatt Lempster Wind Farm in southern New Hampshire. To ascertain why the project outcomes varied, 45 semi-structured interviews were conducted with a range of stakeholders, including wind development firms, utility companies, state regulatory agencies, regional planning commissions, town officials, land conservation organizations, and opposition groups. The second study establishes a comprehensive set of thirty-seven explanatory variables to determine the amount of suitable land and the corresponding electricity generation potential within the prime wind resource areas of Western Massachusetts. The explanatory variables are incorporated into Boolean GIS suitability models which represent the two divergent positions towards wind power development in Massachusetts, and a third, balanced model. The third study determines that exurban residential development is not the only land use factor that reduces wind power development potential in Western Massachusetts. A set of Boolean GIS models for 1985 and 2009 find the onset of conservation easements on private lands having the largest impact. During this 25 year period a combination of land use conversion and land conservation has reduced the access to prime wind resource areas by 18% (11,601 hectares), an equivalent loss of 5,800-8,700 GWh/year of zero carbon electricity generation. The six main findings from this research are: (1) Visual aesthetics remain the main factor of opposition to specific projects; (2) The Not-in-my Backyard debate for wind power remains unsettled; (3) Widespread support exists for regional land use energy plans; (4) The wind resources of Western Massachusetts can significantly contribute to the state’s current renewable portfolio standard while balancing conservation and renewable energy development objectives; However, (5) a combination of exurban residential development and conservation easements significantly reduces wind power development potential over time; and (6) a need exists to legally define wind as a publicly beneficial resource.
How the Built Environment Influences Driving: Insights from Global Positioning System Data
by Xiaoguang Wang
The sprawling low-density car-dependent urban developments in many metropolitan areas in the United States have contributed to severe transportation consequences in the last five decades. They demand intensive automobile travel which exacerbates the nation's oil dependency, and increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which contribute to global warming. While automobile travel patterns have been related to the built environment in current literature, few studies have made the direct connections between the built environment and vehicle fuel consumption and emissions. This dissertation establishes a methodology for understanding the relationships between specific attributes of the built environment, people's driving behavior, and the associated vehicle fuel consumption and emissions. This dissertation applies a disaggregated analysis scheme, through which an individual driver's travel behavior and travel outcomes are related to the built environment. In addition to the built environment near drivers' home and work places, this dissertation provides detailed examinations on the urban corridors along drivers' commuting routes, an important and yet understudied urban space. A rich global positioning systems (GPS) dataset collected from 73 automobile drivers over 30 days on a second-by-second basis in the Detroit metropolitan region is used to quantify driving behaviors and to estimate fuel consumption and major tailpipe emissions. Multivariate statistical techniques are applied to test the influences of the built environment on driving outcomes, controlling for other factors. The results of this dissertation demonstrate that built environment features near home and work locations do not have significant associations with total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and total fuel consumption and emissions on non-work travel. Rather, the influences of built environment along commuting routes on these travel outcomes are statistically significant. Denser and more diverse non-work destination choices are associated with lower level of driving, less fuel consumption and less air pollution. This research also indicates that denser and more diverse land use patterns near drivers' homes lead to lower vehicle fuel efficiency with higher emissions per mile.
Current Postion: Assistant Professor at Central Michigan University
Planning a Metropolitan Atlanta: The Atlanta Regional Commission, 1970-2002
by Carlton Basmajian
Though it possesses a history dating to the beginning of the 20th century, regional planning in the United States has frequently been characterized as weak and disorganized. Sprawling urban regions are often cited as concrete evidence of the failure of the nation’s regional planning agencies to develop and implement a coordinated regional development agenda, and Atlanta is as often mentioned as a prime example of this phenomenon. And so goes the prevailing wisdom about the causes and conditions of sprawling development and its relationship to regional planning: if only regional coordination were better, sprawl would be so much less. But this is a bold conclusion. Though there often appears to be a disconnect between development patterns and the policies devised by regional agencies, this does not mean that the work the agencies do is unimportant to why an urban region grows in a particular way. Taking a longer view, I argue through this dissertation that much of the planning and coordination that regional agencies actually accomplish is largely hidden from public view, but that regional planning agencies have long possessed a quiet power that has influenced the shape of the landscape of urban regions like Atlanta. To understand how regional planning agencies wield power we must refocus our attention away from mechanical indicators and toward more fluid issues of language and procedure (discourse) and the rules that govern the behavior of public agencies (structure). Using archival sources related to Atlanta’s public regional planning agency, I examine, in turn, the formation of the agency, the Atlanta Regional Commission, in 1971; the preparation of the 1975 regional development plan; the initiation of a regional watershed management planning process in 1978; the genesis of the 1989 state law that mandated comprehensive planning; and a battle over air quality and the building of a suburban freeway in 1999. Focusing on the long-term work of a regional agency deeply rooted in the politics of a particularly place provides us with the chance to see in detail how the planning process unfolds, and the contours of power that regional planning institutions exert on the sprawling suburban metropolis.
Why Cooperate? An evaluation of the formation and persistence of voluntary regional land use cooperative arrangements in Michigan
by Nina David
For more than a century, planning scholars have been both frustrated and fascinated with the notion of regional cooperation, one of the most sought after yet elusive ideals of land use planning. While scholars view regional cooperation as the answer to most land use problems, they debate whether regional cooperation can be achieved without substantial mandates, incentives, or both. My dissertation contributes to this planning literature by focusing on the problematic of regional cooperation in Michigan, which most planning scholars regard as representative of states with permissive institutional settings that are unfavorable to cooperation. There are two parts to the puzzle of cooperation in Michigan: first, whether municipalities voluntarily cooperate, and second, whether this ensuing regional cooperation produces desirable planning outcomes. My dissertation focuses on the first part. Using a mixed methodology approach comprised of surveys of local elected officials and case studies of selected municipalities, I focus on whether regional cooperative arrangements can be crafted voluntarily, and I assess the factors the affect the formation of such arrangements. Results show that half of the surveyed Michigan municipalities cooperate on land use issues. These municipalities, however, differ considerably in the kinds of arrangements they use to cooperate on land use issues. While some municipalities cooperate informally by just conversing, others establish formal cooperative mechanisms such as joint master plans and zoning ordinances. Further, the factors that determine whether a municipality makes the initial decision to cooperate are not always the same factors that determine whether a cooperative effort is formalized. The perception of future growth pressure and the internal support for cooperation in a municipality are important in explaining a municipality's initial decision to cooperate. The roles of informal institutions and county and regional planning agencies serve as important explanatory factors of the extent to which municipalities formalize their cooperative efforts. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, a high degree of regional governance culture appears to make it less likely that localities will engage in formal cooperation. Examining cooperation in this light not only allows an in-depth view into decision makers? calculus of cooperation but also offers insight into the underlying causal mechanisms of the key factors predicting cooperation.
"Planning at the Edge: Planning Capacity, Growth Pressure, and Growth Management at the Urban Fringe"
by Carolyn Loh
In many states, the task of managing the pace and nature of future growth is left to local governments. That they are adequately carrying out the planning process is largely taken on faith. In this dissertation I test the hypotheses that existing land use conformance with master plan goals and future land use maps decreases with growth pressure and increases with planning capacity. I combine GIS analysis, plan and zoning document analysis, and qualitative interview analysis to investigate these hypotheses. Local governments use the long range master planning process to project and manage a future vision for the community. In theory, the process works as follows. First, the planning commission holds a visioning session to gain community consensus on plan goals. Commission members and planners incorporate those goals into the master plan and set forth objectives and implementation steps. Local government officials implement the plan by codifying its recommendations in the zoning ordinance, and enforcing ordinances uniformly. At each of these four steps, however, the process can break down, and the spirit of the community's vision can fail to be translated into reality. I call these the four potential disconnects. I find that a lack of planning capacity, meaning the resources available to the community with which to plan, can indeed negatively influence conformance with master plan goals; in other words, lack of planning capacity makes it more likely that the community experiences disconnects in the planning process. Some combination of money, community involvement, and staff and official expertise is necessary to first create a high quality plan, then implement it and enforce ordinances consistently. Higher growth pressure is associated with lower conformance between existing land use and future land use maps, but a large part of this difference can be explained by vacant land use succession patterns in urbanizing areas. An awareness of causes and circumstances involved in the breakdown of the planning process allows the direction of resources in a targeted manner to improve conformance between plans and built outcomes.
Public Participation in Brownfields Cleanup and Redevelopment: The Role of Community Organizations
by Daniel Spiess
This study explores the role of community organizations in the planning process, using the Seattle, Washington, brownfields program as the focus of study. Applying scholarly literature from planning, social work, and environmental studies, this research focuses specifically on the effect that community organizations have on promoting public participation, influencing project outcomes, and mediating between neighborhood residents and government at three brownfield sites in Seattle. I apply multiple qualitative research methods in this study, including case studies, semi-structured interviews, and archival research, to identify conditions if and where community organizations have been integral to public involvement and influential to project outcomes. My descriptions, questions, and analyses are based upon existing brownfield studies, participation and community organization literature, and the communicative planning debates. This research shows a notable lack of meaningful participation by individuals in brownfields projects despite the presence of several active community organizations in each case and assumptions in the literature of organizations’ promotion of public participation. Government officials and developers in this study implemented ‘public participation’ but often produced little more than an outreach/advertising effort that lacked any real path for input, reflecting the rationalization of participation requirements by those in power. For their part, community organizations played a mediating role but the role was as much for the benefit of city officials and developers as it was for neighborhood residents. Organizations in these cases assisted government officials in gauging local concerns and added valuable support to developers seeking city approvals yet rarely provided increased access to the planning process or facilitated activism, often due to the political context of these developments. Despite the appearance of minimal opportunities for meaningful participation, however, residents appeared mostly satisfied by the planning processes and showed little concern for contamination highlighting Seattle’s neighborhood planning efforts of the previous decade and emphasizing the importance of trust, long-standing relationships, and “local” status. Calls for increased public participation in the literature and in practice may not be necessary (or at least not necessary in all phases of a project) as long as planners and politicians strengthen efforts to build relationships and trust between stakeholders.
“Inappropriate” appropriations of planning ideas: Informalizing the formal and localizing the global"
by Sanjeev Vidyarthi
This research explores how the American planning idea of the neighborhood unit was implemented in India, why and how the recipient society appropriated the concept, and what that means for how Indian cities actually develop. Using insights from cultural studies, anthropology, planning, and historiography this research examines the adaptation of the concept at the national and state level, and document and analyzes the spatial transformation of three built neighborhood units in the city of Jaipur. It does so by employing a combination of four research methods within a case study approach: archival research, analysis of built up areas using Geographical Information System (GIS), the neighborhood history calendar technique, and semi-structured open-ended interviews. This research reveals that the aspirations of elites and the contemporary planning and development agendas of recently independent India facilitated the introduction and institutionalization of the neighborhood unit concept. However, a range of actors including planners contributed towards the appropriation of the neighborhood unit. Indian planners attempted to adapt and translate the concept in order to translocate its American origins into Indian patrimony. This enabled planners to claim equal ownership of the concept and helped internalize it. The residents appropriated the envisaged spatiality of built units by transforming residential land use into commercial, encroaching on open setbacks to build residential extensions, and building temples in what were intended to be recreational parks. In addition, the urban poor have built informal settlements on the peripheries of these neighborhood units, and the state and its capillary organizations such as the Housing Board and Urban Development Authority have appropriated the open spaces and planned land uses. This study reveals that everyday practices of residents have substantially enriched the simple planning concept through a diverse range of appropriations. Such a pervasiveness of appropriations suggests patterns of collective behaviors that call for more multifaceted and historic studies of Indian cities in order to plan efficiently. It also calls for revisiting present subdivision norms that emphasis residential land use and proscribe other uses in neighborhoods apart from a few convenience shops. Planners and policy-makers, once they begin to appreciate the worth of these informalities, have sufficient ingredients at hand to create rich, lively and diverse neighborhoods in Indian cities.