Taubman College

Ph.D. in Urban Planning / Recent Graduates



Civil Society Organizations and the Protection of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Colonial Railways: The Case of Madagascar’s Fianarantsoa-Côte Est Railway

by Douglas Kolozsvari

Colonial-era railways support the life needs of many communities and households in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Although the end of colonial rule removed some justifications used for their construction, as well as resources that supported these lines’ infrastructure and operations, these railways still serve millions of people. Despite the important role they play in this infrastructure-poor region, a lack of resources has left many lines in various states of disrepair. Complicating efforts to maintain railway service, international development institutions (IDIs) have repeatedly relied on a relatively narrow economic rationality and loan conditions to ensure governments stop supporting underperforming lines either by closing or privatizing them. The case of a colonial-built Fianarantsoa-Côte Est Railway (FCE) in Madagascar, which has faced closure numerous times from various causes, provides insight into how effectively railway supporters can organize, support, and frame their arguments to preserve service. This case was also selected because the presence of civil society organizations (CSOs) dedicated to protecting the FCE was unique. The findings show that the main CSO dedicated to protecting the FCE helped build ownership for the line among the local population and users based on its heritage value. This heritage was based largely on the sacrifice of ancestors who built the line – a trait the FCE shares with other colonial-era railways in SSA. The resulting sense of solidarity, and activities in which they participated, curbed farming practices that threatened the line’s infrastructure. This solidarity also facilitated the creation of a second CSO that protected the line from saboteurs during a political crisis. Although officials from IDIs and government had little direct contact with CSOs, the noticeable atmosphere of civic engagement along the line affected their opinions about the FCE. This case holds lessons for planning theory and policymaking. Balancing traditional economic justifications for operating transportation services with other benefits, finding a champion and building solidarity, and recognizing the value of study tours can improve transportation decisions and outcomes. Likewise, planners and policymakers can encourage the formation, sustainability and active involvement of CSOs by ensuring they remain democratic, transparent, well funded and engaged with all stakeholders.

Under What Conditions Can Urban Rail Transit Induce Higher Density? Evidence from Four Metropolitan Areas in the United States, 1990-2010.

by Qingyun Shen


Evaluating Neighborhood Environments for Urban Heat Island Analysis and Reduction

by Paul Coseo

City officials are increasingly concerned about heat. Two warming processes are increasing the occurrence of urban heat: 1) global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions and 2) intensifying urban heat islands (UHI) caused by urbanization. Global climate change increases the frequency, intensity, and duration of hot days. UHIs result in warmer urban air temperatures relative to rural and suburban areas Problems directly resulting from hot weather and UHIs include increased heat mortality, infrastructure failure, increased stress to vegetation, and decreased air and water quality. City officials are increasingly taking action to analyze and reduce UHIs. Yet, past research provides insufficient information for researchers and planners on 1) the relative contribution of neighborhood physical characteristics to UHIs and how those physical characteristics’ contribution may change during different times of day, 2) the accuracy of land cover quantifications necessary to predict UHIs, and 3)monitoring the performance of in-situ cool pavement strategies. To address these gaps in the literature, I conducted three related studies of UHIs in eight Chicago neighborhoods in 2010. 1) I found that light winds at night resulted in stronger relationships between independent neighborhood physical variables and UHI intensity (2 a.m., adjusted R2= 0.68) than during the afternoon (4 p.m., adjusted R2= 0.26). At night land cover variables were better predictors of UHIs relative to other actors. Yet, during the afternoon, I found that upwind heat sources were better predictors of UHIs relative to other factors. 2) In the second study, I found that coarse (two-dimensional) quantifications of impervious surface area are sufficient for UHI prediction. Even so, more detailed (three-dimensional) quantifications that document impervious surfaces concealed by tree canopy are likely better for urban forestry and planning for rights-of-way. 3) Finally, I found that out of six different cool pavement strategies, highly reflective concrete and pervious concrete, cooled the air. Both designs had cooler air at three meters by at least -0.40⁰Ccompared to conventional asphalt paving. As city officials move to implement initiatives to reduce UHIs, this research provides a useful direction on how to conduct UHI analysis and monitor the performance of UHI reduction strategies.

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