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Devon McAslan

Current Student—Ph.D in Urban and Regional Planning

Devon McAslan

dmcaslan@umich.edu
Advisor: Scott Campbell
Dissertation Committee: Scott Campbell (Chair); Linda Groat (Cognate, Architecture); Ana Paula Pimentel Walker; Robert Fishman

Areas of Interest: Sustainable land use and transportation planning, walkability, street use and design, car free cities, urban sustainability, urban form and history of the built environment

Research:

Pedestrians are a vital component of urban life, contributing to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of cities. Sustainable transportation and land use policies promote compact walkable neighborhoods centered on non-motorized transport and transit. Current transportation and street design practices advance these sustainable modes of transportation by giving more space to pedestrians, cyclists, and busses. In the US, this has been called the complete streets model. In my research, I question whether this practice of incorporating more users into individual streets is truly better or if it is more reasonable that certain parts of the city and certain streets be for pedestrians, cyclists, transit or cars. My dissertation explores this by focusing on the link between transit and walking and instead of the more common planning approach of how important a walkable urban fabric is for transit use, I look at how important types of transit and location of transit is for walking and what its role is in highly walkable urban core neighborhoods. I use a number of methods to explore this dimension of walkability: neighborhood mapping and observations; a travel behavior survey; and in depth interviews with residents who live and/or work in the urban core. Seattle serves as my case study city due to its current level of activity surrounding transit development as well as a number of innovative programs and community organization involved in making the city more pedestrian friendly. On a theoretical level, my research is informed by and seeks to test the validity of the theory of urban fabrics developed by Newman and Kenworthy (2015), which argues that most cities have pedestrian, transit and automobile urban fabrics within them and that each fabric requires a different planning approach. This is a particularly useful lens through which to examine walkability since it essentially argues that dense walkable neighborhoods need to be planned for pedestrians first, transit second, and automobiles last and that we, as urban planners, need to stop accommodating the automobile as much as we do.

Another ongoing area of research explores impacts of land use and transportation policies on urban livability and quality of life. In particular, I am interested in the rise of car free development in cities around the world and the concept of car free cities. I am interested in how these new developments are different from other types of urban development in terms of their urban form, but also their social, economic and environmental impacts. I also advocate for and am interested in exploring the possibilities for the design and development of new car free cities and how planners can work to retrofit existing cities to become car free and the extent to which current planning practices facilitate this possible outcome. Although perhaps an oddity in the US, this is the direction that many European cities are going and something US cities should consider more important as they work towards creating truly livable and sustainable urban places.

Publications:

  • McAslan, Devon and Stephen Buckman. (In Review). “Canals, Streets, and the Building of an Urban Desert Oasis: The Impact of Canals on the Culture and Geography of Phoenix, Arizona.”
  • McAslan, Devon. 2015. “Assessing Urban Sustainability: Using Indicators to Measuring Progress” in Sustainability for the 21st Century: Pathways, Programs and Policies, by K. David Pijawka (eds.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing.
  • McAslan, Devon, Mihir Prakash, David Pijawka, Subhrajit Guhathakurta, and Edward Sadalla. 2013. “Measuring Quality of Life in Border Cities: The Border Observatory Project in the US-Mexico Border Region” in Community Quality-of-Life Indicators: Best Cases VI, by M. Joseph Sirgy, Rhonda Phillips and Don Rahtz (eds.). New York, NY: Springer.
  • Pijawka, David, Subhrajit Guhathakurta, Edward Sadalla, Kimberly Collins, Mihir Prakash, and Devon McAslan. 2013. “Urban Indicators for Border Areas: Measuring and Tracking Community Conditions in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region” in Remaking Metropolis: Global Challenges of the Urban Landscape, by Edward Cook and Jesus Lara (eds.). London,UK: Routledge.
  • McAslan, Devon. 2010. Urban Indicators: A Study and Evaluation of Urban Indicator Programs for Creating Sustainable Communities.  Master’s Thesis. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University. Committee: David Pijawka (Chair), Douglas Webster and Katherine Crewe.

Presentations:

  • McAslan, Devon. “Street Reclaiming and Complete Streets in Seattle and New York.” Poster presented at the 2016 Walkable Washington Symposium, June 7, 2016, Bellevue, WA.
  • McAslan, Devon and Stephen Buckman. “Canals, Streets and Modernism in a Desert City: A History of Phoenix Canals.” Paper presented at the 16th National Conference on Planning History, November 5-8, 2015, Los Angeles, CA.
  • McAslan, Devon. “Expanding Public Parks through Community Activism in Jackson Heights, Queens.” Paper presented at the 52nd Annual International Making Cities Livable Conference, June 29-July 3, 2015, Bristol, UK.