Selected Doctoral Dissertations from the Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning program.
If They’re Riding It, We’re Not Voting for It: Assessing the Role of Racial Threat on Voter Support for Regional Public Transit in Atlanta and Detroit
by Eric Bettis
Regional transit ballot measures in racially segregated metropolitan areas of the United States have historically faced fierce opposition by suburban voters. Proposed public transportation network expansions often reveal acute tensions between constituencies and their priorities, with urban residents tending to support such proposals while suburban residents do not. Furthermore, support for transit proposals tend to show differences by race, with Black, Latino, and other marginalized groups typically supporting transit at higher rates than White voters. The spatial patterns of this support suggest that race itself, and particularly increasing diversity, play a role in this disparity, and further suggests a connection between a region’s contentious racial history and suburban transit opposition. To study this relationship between diversity and transit support, this dissertation employs multiple regression and geospatial analyses of demographic and election data to support an examination of demographic composition’s role in reflecting and influencing changing levels of regional transit support. Using the Racial Threat Hypothesis to interpret past and current suburban voter opposition to transit, the project examines four suburban counties in the Atlanta and Detroit metropolitan regions as case studies. Regression analyses of precinct-level voting data and 1990, 2000, and 2010 census tract-level data find that measures of Black population density and proximity exert moderately strong influence on transit support: positive in more racially diverse census tracts, and negative in tracts and subregions with less diversity. These results are more pronounced in homogeneously White portions of segregated counties: the study shows a statistically significant decrease in transit initiative support associated with growing proportions of nearby Black populations, with Black residential density and proximity being second only to partisanship in influence. The study also finds a direct relationship between increases in Black populations and increasing support for conservative policies and candidates in homogeneously White portions of metro counties. This suggests that areas with recent, significant Black population growth exhibit voting behavior more consistent with the Racial Threat Hypothesis, while those with longer exposure to integration show more tolerance for minority-beneficial policies. This research has implications for understanding how demographic transition, racial group concentration, and proximity to communities of color can influence voter support for regional transit expansion. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that the relationship between democratic processes and the success of equity-associated policy can be tenuous in areas where diversity has historically been resisted or absent.
Discursive Approaches to Gentrification Studies: Excavating the Market-Led Paradigm
by Michael Borsellino
Gentrification is a contentious topic both theoretically and politically. A subset of urbanization, gentrification displaces existing residents as wealthier residents and developers move into an area and invest in local housing, commerce, and public infrastructure. Some view gentrification as a savior for disinvested urban areas while others challenge that it is inequitable and destroys urban communities. Both sides generally understand gentrification as an economic phenomenon and acknowledge that few mechanisms exist to offset its negative externalities. This dissertation challenges both of those assumptions. In this dissertation, I examine the academic genealogy of gentrification and its contemporary understanding in public discourse. The objective of this study is to understand how our current academic interpretation of gentrification was formed and to understand how that differs from a public understanding of the process. To this end, the dissertation uses a suite of discursive methods to examine the language of gentrification used by both academics and public actors like developers, city officials, and residents. Those methods are textual analysis, actor-network theory, and discursive frame analysis applied to a case study. Adopting this suite of approaches allows for the excavating of the initial meaning of gentrification and its transformation through academic debate. These methods also allow for the interrogation of academia’s current logjam of research that may not adequately explicate the complexities of gentrification as it occurs in American cities and abroad. I show that Ruth Glass’s early observation of gentrification in London was a byproduct of unique historic preconditions and changes in technology, demographics, and administrative policies. In the 1980s and 1990s, influential scholars overlooked these spatiotemporal contextual causes as they renegotiated the cause of gentrification and, thus, its meaning. I show that a new gentrification resulted from those negotiations, one defined as a market-led process with universal application. This interpretation continues to dominate gentrification studies today. My case study centered on a rezoning application for a redevelopment project in Austin, Texas shows that this market-led paradigm fails to capture how different groups understand the causes and scale of gentrification today. Relying on the tripartite contextual framework from the second chapter, I demonstrate that gentrification is fundamentally state-mediated. Further, gentrification is not equal to the materialization of development. Future research on gentrification should take care to understand local histories and contextual causes. This, coupled with empirical analysis focused on effects, will help close the gap between theoretical significance and political significance in a way that is policy relevant. Future research should also break from the market-led paradigm that dominates gentrification studies, instead focusing on the role of the state in creating the preconditions necessary for gentrification to occur. Understanding the role of the state is key to mitigating the negative effects of gentrification.
Regions, Race, Rail and Rubber: An Analysis of How Transportation Planning Decisions Contributed to Regional Segregation, 1922 – 1973
by Robert Pfaff
Detroit’s history of systemic racial inequity has significantly contributed to the uneven development patterns of the entire metropolitan region that persist to this day. The process of central city decline, deindustrialization, and suburban migration in the post-war period compounded existing discrimination in housing and employment for Black residents, effectively trapping them in the city and preventing them from accessing suburban amenities. This dissertation evaluates the role that public transportation planning played in reinforcing racial segregation by restricting transit options to suburban areas, effectually limiting physical mobility of residents. My research demonstrates that the City of Detroit Department of Street Railways (DSR) had knowledge of suburban growth trends, sufficient budget revenues, legal jurisdiction, and the physical resources to provide service to suburban areas, but voluntarily limited suburban transit options. The failure to provide suburban service meant that the DSR could not capitalize on regional growth trends and could not recover from lost ridership numbers as Detroit depopulated through white flight and decentralization. This study analyzes key transportation planning decisions made by City of Detroit officials between 1922 and 1973 using qualitative, primary-source, archival records such as letters, meeting minutes, reports, survey documents, and maps. These sources have not been comprehensively researched or peer-reviewed to date, and my research contributes to a literature gap in the history of public transportation planning in the City of Detroit. Findings are determined using interpretive analysis to understand the role that transportation planning has played in reinforcing racial segregation between city and suburb in post-war Detroit.
Federal Incentives, State Preemptions, and Local Politics: Implementing Inclusionary Housing Policies in India and the United States
by Naganika Sanga
Cities around the world are experiencing increasing affordable housing shortages and socio-economic segregation. To encourage integrated and inclusive production of affordable housing, cities are increasingly turning to market-led housing strategies such as inclusionary housing. Inclusionary housing (IH) policy requires or incentivizes market housing developers to designate a certain percentage of units as income-restricted units. IH policies have strong supporters and opponents, given their underlying redistributive principles. IH literature has so far focused on how national governments in countries such as the U.K., the Netherlands, and American states like New Jersey and California have encouraged local IH policy adoption through legislation and dedicated funding. But what happens when federal governments cannot legislate IH policies and state governments oppose them? How do local regime politics shape IH policy design and implementation? How then do the federal, state, and local level actors and priorities come together in implementing IH policies? This dissertation responds to these questions by examining IH policies in diverse structural and sociopolitical settings that have so far been ignored in IH policy scholarship. Four papers informed by a total of 111 semi-structured interviews, extensive document analysis, site visits, archival research, and participant observation of public meetings, nuance the importance of federal and state roles in local IH policy implementation in India and the United States in different case contexts. These cases offer valuable insights into the politics of urban regimes, alternative IH mechanisms, and intergovernmental relations between multiple levels of governments, the civic sector, and developer associations. This dissertation contributes to urban politics and governance literature by demonstrating the need for studying local initiatives within multi-level governance systems.
The first paper focuses on India, where the federal government has no direct legal mandate for IH policy. The paper reviews the success of alternative tools employed by the federal government by examining Andhra Pradesh state’s response to federal IH reform initiatives. The second paper discusses how states and cities creatively leverage federal housing grants while evading federal IH intent through detailed cases of federal affordable housing projects implemented in Vijayawada city, Andhra Pradesh state. The third paper discusses the importance of the state policy environment on local planning and housing policies and offers an analytical framework to categorize the range of state-IH policy positions. It specifically discusses three states – Oregon, Texas, and Tennessee – that have a history of explicit legislative restrictions, called ‘state preemptions’ against city IH policies. The fourth paper focuses on three cities that faced state IH policy preemptions – Austin, Texas, Portland, Oregon, and Nashville, Tennessee – to investigate how state restrictions impact local IH policy and their subsequent policy choices. The concluding chapter reflects on the similarities and dissimilarities of IH policy experiences in the U.S. and India and offers ideas for exchange. The four papers collectively situate IH policies within a comparative intergovernmentalism framework and provide new dimensions to our understanding of IH policies by problematizing the related political, structural, ideological, and social issues.
A Metropolitan Dilemma: Regional Planning, Governance, and Power in Detroit, 1945-1995
by Joel Batterman
Scholars of planning and policy have long argued that metropolitan or regional institutions for planning and governance are needed to address such problems as urban sprawl, central city decline, and inter-jurisdictional segregation and inequality. Yet some form of regional planning and governance is already practiced in every major U.S. metro area under the auspices of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), which the federal government has mandated for roughly half a century. Why have these institutions proved inadequate to remedy America’s “metropolitan dilemma” of sprawling, inequitable (sub)urbanization? Are they simply too weak? Have they lacked the political will to challenge this pattern? Or both?
I examine the question through a historical case study, based in archival research, of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), the MPO for the seven-county area that includes metropolitan Detroit. I argue that SEMCOG should be understood in the context of the political history of twentieth-century Detroit and the trajectory of twentieth-century American liberalism. The development of SEMCOG in the wake of the New Deal and World War Two reflected broader liberal efforts to harmonize private choice and public planning, and municipal autonomy with metropolitan interdependence, in an era of federally sponsored, whites-only suburbanization. SEMCOG’s arrested development from the 1970s onward mirrored the broader unraveling of postwar American liberalism as the inherent tensions in the project became increasingly evident.
In the twenty years after World War Two, Detroit pioneered the development of regional institutions for planning and governance: a Regional Planning Commission (RPC) and a Supervisors Inter-County Committee (SICC). These institutions were initially intended not to challenge but to facilitate the prevailing patterns of outward development and the proliferation of independent suburban communities, both of which placed escalating burdens on the central city of Detroit and black Detroiters in particular.
The RPC and SICC were merged to form SEMCOG just as the political transformations wrought by suburbanization, segregation and the African American freedom movement shook the foundations of the liberal political order in which regional planning and governance had evolved. As metropolitan politics grew increasingly racialized along city-suburb lines, and the federal government retreated from regional initiatives, SEMCOG survived the 1970s only by vowing to defend local control and eschewing a role in resolving issues of racial segregation and inequality, while accommodating the prevailing pattern of sprawl and disinvestment. When SEMCOG staff questioned this course, they were forced to back down in the face of opposition from the now-dominant suburban growth regime.
For advocates of regional planning and governance, there are sobering lessons to be drawn from the history of SEMCOG. In Detroit, institutions for regional planning and governance have failed to resolve the problems of sprawl and inequality, and in some respects exacerbated them, since these institutions are embedded within a larger political system that has been dominated by suburban development interests and defenders of racial and economic segregation. Although MPOs can help to bring important metropolitan issues before policymakers, and structural reform of MPOs could increase their capacity and willingness to do so, solving the metropolitan dilemma will ultimately require the development of a new multi-racial metropolitan politics that builds grassroots power for “reparative regionalism” across city-suburb boundaries.
Urban Planning and Its Feminist Histories
by Bri Gauger
Urban Planning and its Feminist Histories identifies and amplifies women’s roles in shaping the institutions, ideas, and educational practices that comprised the field of planning in North America throughout the twentieth century, with a particular focus on the United States in the 1960s through the 1990s. My narrative of the relationships between feminist activism, spatial practice, higher education, and the politics of knowledge production reveals feminism’s contradictory legacy in shaping contemporary approaches to planning practice, theory, and education. Based on forty-two interviews with planning scholars in the U.S. and Canada, my cross-generational oral history research is read in light of feminist scholarship and archival documents from planning schools and organizations, women’s interest groups, collectives, and task forces, and community-based organizations and collectives. An interdisciplinary project, this dissertation draws from and contributes to the history of social movements, planning education and practice, and related fields such as architecture, geography, urban history, and women’s and gender studies.
Beginning in the late 1960s, an emerging social and political focus in the field of planning attracted women participating in a long tradition of female-headed housing and community development activism. Bolstered by equal opportunity legislation and increased federal funding for research on women’s and urban issues, the first substantial group of women to become planning scholars began their academic careers in the 1970s. These women produced feminist knowledge about gender, race, class, and the city by forming educational collectives and lobbying groups, convening conferences, and creating publishing outlets alongside members of the nascent Women’s Studies movement. The activist and community-engaged roots of the first generation of feminist planning academics equipped them to develop new paradigms for planning theory and epistemology that centered participation and everyday experience, as well as spearheading community studio learning models in planning classrooms. At the same time, these feminist planners, architects, designers, and community development and housing advocates staked a claim in both activist and academic spaces for the important role of space, place, and the urban environment in feminist thought and practice.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, women shaped the landscape of the planning academy by moving into leadership roles and founding the Faculty Women’s Interest Group (FWIG) within the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP). Through FWIG and various ACSP initiatives and committees, they built a professional support network and led efforts for gender and racial diversity among planning faculty, students, and research. While this dissertation demonstrates how the first feminist scholars carved out discursive and institutional space in the planning academy, it also reveals that this is not an entirely victorious story. I also examine the theoretical and practical consequences of women’s early activism in the academy through the experiences of scholars who struggled in academia, were denied tenure, and/or were pushed out of planning to a different discipline. In contrast to the initial group, comprised mostly of white women, this pool of interviewees consists primarily of BIPOC women whose stories provide a crucial intergenerational and intersectional perspective on shifting barriers and priorities that parallel broader trends in feminist movements. I present their perspectives on how these women were largely alienated from institutional gains in the 1990s, how their scholarship was marginalized, and how they have helped each other survive and thrive.
A Learning Health Sciences Approach to Understanding Clinical Documentation in Pediatric Rehabilitation Settings
by Nikolas Koscielniak
The work presented in this dissertation provides an analysis of clinical documentation that challenges the concepts and thinking surrounding missingness of data from clinical settings and the factors that influence why data are missing. It also foregrounds the critical role of clinical documentation as infrastructure for creating learning health systems (LHS) for pediatric rehabilitation settings. Although completeness of discrete data is limited, the results presented do not reflect the quality of care or the extent of unstructured data that providers document in other locations of the electronic health record (EHR) interface. While some may view imputation and natural language processing as means to address missingness of clinical data, these practices carry biases in their interpretations and issues of validity in results. The factors that influence missingness of discrete clinical data are rooted not just in technical structures, but larger professional, system level and unobservable phenomena that shape provider practices of clinical documentation. This work has implications for how we view clinical documentation as critical infrastructure for LHS, future studies of data quality and health outcomes research, and EHR design and implementation. The overall research questions for this dissertation are: 1) To what extent can data networks be leveraged to build classifiers of patient functional performance and physical disability? 2) How can discrete clinical data on gross motor function be used to draw conclusions about clinical documentation practices in the EHR for cerebral palsy? 3) Why does missingness of discrete data in the EHR occur? To address these questions, a three-pronged approach is used to examine data completeness and the factors that influence missingness of discrete clinical data in an exemplar pediatric data learning network will be used. As a use-case, evaluation of EHR data completeness of gross motor function related data, populated by providers from 2015-2019 for children with cerebral palsy (CP), will be completed. Mixed methods research strategies will be used to achieve the dissertation objectives, including developing an expert-informed and standards-based phenotype model of gross motor function data as a task-based mechanism, conducting quantitative descriptive analyses of completeness of discrete data in the EHR, and performing qualitative thematic analyses to elicit and interpret the latent concepts that contribute to missingness of discrete data in the EHR. The clinical data for this dissertation are sourced from the Shriners Hospitals for Children (SHC) Health Outcomes Network (SHOnet), while qualitative data were collected through interviews and field observations of clinical providers across three care sites in the SHC system.
How Affordable are Accessible Locations? Housing and Transportation Costs and Affordability in U.S. Metropolitan Areas with Intra-Urban Rail Service
by Matan Singer
Housing affordability is a major problem for many Americans. The increase in residential rents in the past few decades, alongside stagnant and even lower incomes, is forcing households to spend a larger share of their income on housing. The high costs of housing relative to income mean that some households cannot afford non-housing goods and services like food, healthcare, and education. Within the affordability debate, lowering transportation costs by using transit is often viewed as a potential solution to affordability problems. While housing might be expensive, if transportation costs are low, the overall costs of living in a specific neighborhood might still be affordable. Hence, housing and transportation advocates call for improving public transport options that allow households to access destinations without needing a private vehicle.
In this dissertation, I examine housing and transportation costs and affordability in twenty-seven U.S. metropolitan areas with intra-urban rail systems. The objective of the study is to understand whether transit-rich neighborhoods, especially those served by rail, are affordable, with an emphasis on lower-income households. To this end, the dissertation adopts a multilevel approach to examining housing and transportation costs and affordability cross-sectionally and over time. Adopting a multilevel approach allows examining how neighborhood- and metropolitan-level factors interact with one another and affect housing and transportation costs and affordability. Neighborhoods (i.e., block groups and census tracts) are classified based on their proximity to rail and their built environments to examine how costs vary between different types of neighborhoods. Finally, affordability is calculated based on metropolitan-wide income levels to assess whether housing and transportation costs are affordable to households at different income levels.
The results indicate that the majority of neighborhoods in the sampled metropolitan areas are affordable to median and moderate-income households. Moreover, transit-rich neighborhoods are found to be more affordable than auto-oriented neighborhoods, mainly thanks to lower transportation costs. Still, only small share of neighborhoods is affordable to households earning 50% or less of area median income. Even in transit-rich neighborhoods, the lower transportation costs typically do not translate into more affordable locations for very low-income households. This is because many households still rely on the private vehicle even in the most transit-rich neighborhoods.
Housing in transit-oriented development is expensive, in part, due to the high levels of transit job accessibility these neighborhoods offer. However, housing costs in these neighborhoods are also high because of low long-run elasticities of housing supply. Despite an increase in the demand for compact walkable neighborhoods in recent decades, land-use regulations and local opposition direct denser development to rail-station areas. As a result, a higher supply of housing in transit-oriented development is associated with higher housing costs regionwide due to induced demand for these neighborhoods. At the same time, increasing the supply of housing in alternative pedestrian-friendly and transit-rich neighborhoods has a moderating effect on housing costs in transit-oriented development as it allows separating the demand for walkable urban form from the demand for transit accessibility. Hence, rather than focusing on developing more housing only in transit-oriented development, efforts should focus on expanding the housing options in a diversity of neighborhood types both near and away from rail stations.
The Promise of Parkland: Planning Detroit’s Public Spaces, 1805-2018
by Patrick Cooper-McCann
This dissertation investigates how and why the provision of urban parkland has changed over time, with different levels of government and different organizations in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors taking on different responsibilities. Based on a case study of park provision in Detroit in six sequential periods spanning 1805 to 2018, I argue that governance influences more than just the “publicness” of any given park or plaza. It also matters for socioeconomic and racial equity at a metropolitan scale, influencing which kinds of spaces and facilities get funded, how many spaces and facilities are provided, where they are provided, for whom they are provided, and who sets these priorities.
In the nineteenth century, park systems were developed according to an ideology of privatism. Before 1865, the city of Detroit built only a handful of squares and parks, either in or near the city center, in partnership with developers. After 1865, metropolitan-level commissions developed a separate system of scenic parks and boulevards on donated farmland. This public-private approach to provision produced iconic parks like Belle Isle, but it left working class neighborhoods without open space.
Progressive Era social reformers partially addressed this deficiency by launching a recreation commission to open play facilities in working class neighborhoods. A city plan commission began buying land for parks and playfields in new subdivisions, and county, regional, state, and federal agencies opened scenic parks at their respective scales. Yet enduring racial disparities emerged. Few parks were added in the inner city, where most African Americans resided, and the recreation commission relied on private agencies to supplement its few racially integrated services. Not only were African Americans served by fewer, separate, and unequal facilities, the enduring lack of open space was later used to justify discriminatory plans for urban renewal.
In the late 1960s, urban rioting and organizing led to the reordering of park governance. Public agencies at all scales invested funds in urban recreation for the first time and new forms of public-private partnership emerged. As Detroit became a majority black city, politicians embraced these options selectively, soliciting revenue sharing but retaining local control of public space and keeping a focus on recreation. However, the municipal recreation system steadily declined as the local government lost revenue.
Since 2000, some parks have flourished again under new management. The state of Michigan began operating riverfront facilities, including Belle Isle. Nonprofit real estate development organizations have used public and private funds to renovate parks and greenways located on the riverfront and downtown in order to spur real estate investment. But neighborhood recreational facilities remain neglected because deep-pocketed partners have not prioritized the social agenda they represent. The selective revitalization of parkland contributes to the disparity between the quality of life in much of the majority black city and that in its gentrifying core and wealthier, whiter suburbs.
In addition to shedding new light on Detroit’s history, these findings suggest that with respect to park equity, what matters is not private or public control of public space per se but instead whether the goals and capacities of park providers align with the needs of city residents. Public and private partners alike will exacerbate inequity rather than correct it if they invest only in parks with the potential to spur economic development.
Building Cities Like Startups: Innovation Districts, Rent Extraction, and the Remaking of Public Space
by Carla Kayanan
Across the globe, economic developers and policymakers are building “innovation districts” –master planned developments with the aim of concentrating the actors, entities, inputs, and physical infrastructure considered essential to process and product innovation. Promoters have repeatedly hailed Barcelona’s “22@bcn” (est. 2000) and Boston’s “Seaport Innovation District” (est. 2010) for their success in attracting talent, increasing jobs, scaling startups, and transitioning regions into a high-tech economy. Built within the city and the urban-periphery alike, innovation districts point to a new spatial layout for capitalist production.
This dissertation is an in-depth comparative case study of five innovation districts: Boston, Detroit, Park Center (North Carolina), St. Louis, and Dublin (Ireland). I engage a qualitative approach that includes on-site observations and semi-structured interviews with over 100 key supporters of innovation districts–from residents and workers to the university affiliates, developers, incubator owners, venture capitalists, non-profit managers, private executives, elected officials, and consultants driving growth decisions. In developing a more robust definition of innovation districts than the strategy mobilized by growth coalitions, I situate the emergence of innovation districts and their extractive logics along a historic trajectory of capitalist production from manufacturing material goods to new forms of immaterial production. Relying on content analysis of primary documents, maps, legal statues, and architectural renditions, I document how the planning process for each innovation district encloses public space and lived experience within that space, relinquishing it for private profit.
Through detailed case studies I argue that economic developers and policymakers opportunistically used innovation district strategy to trigger real estate development after the 2008/2009 global financial crisis. The allure of the innovation district concept –that of an entrepreneurial haven for science and design breakthroughs and the acceleration of discoveries to the market—succeeded in selling the innovation district strategy for financial, political, and popular backing during a time period of complete construction standstill. However, in places with robust entrepreneurial ecosystems, supporters lost sight of the benefits of the innovation district as a support for startups and entrepreneurs in favor of more established companies seeking proximity to talent. Using census data, I trace the changing demographic makeup of each innovation district from its date of inception to its current state to demonstrate how innovation district strategy contributes to the splintering of resources. Lastly, I conclude the dissertation with a theoretical discussion gesturing how innovation districts might exacerbate issues of precarity for the entrepreneur who sits at the center of this experimentation and is increasingly interpellated by a state-led ideology that eagerly encourages self-provisioning.
Redefining the Value of Accessibility: Toward a Better Understanding of How Accessibility Shapes Household Residential Location and Travel Choices
by Xiang Yan
Accessible locations in a metropolitan region afford individuals who occupy them greater convenience to interact with activities distributed across the region. This convenience may translate into a range of economic benefits: reduced time-plus-money spending on travel to reach desirable destinations (termed here travel-cost savings), welfare gains resulting from enhanced social and economic interactions, consumer satisfaction due to a greater choice of activities to engage with, and so on. Yet many urban researchers have either implicitly or explicitly equated the benefits afforded by accessible locations to travel-cost savings (TCS), excluding other forms of benefits from consideration. An exclusive focus on TCS underestimates the value of accessibility and in many policy contexts constitutes a conceptual barrier to promoting accessibility-based planning practice and policymaking. For instance, observations of excess commuting are frequently used as evidence to refute the merits of job-housing balance strategies.
This three-paper dissertation challenges the TCS-based view of accessibility benefits. In the first paper, I trace the origin of the TCS-based view of accessibility to classic urban economic theories and review its application in residential location studies. To test the hypothesis that individuals value accessibility beyond the benefit of travel-cost savings, I develop residential location choice models for the Puget Sound and Southeast Michigan regions to examine whether transit accessibility remains a significant predictor of residential location choice after I control for all possible travel-cost savings associated with it. The results do not support a TCS-based view of accessibility benefits. Considering that only a small fraction of Americans regularly use transit, I conclude that it is probably the option value of transit access that attracts people to transit-accessible neighborhoods.
Building on the idea that people value accessibility beyond the benefit of TCS, the second paper critiques the common practice of using a reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as the main empirical measure to represent the transportation benefits of accessibility-enhancing compact-development strategies. I argue that VMT-reduction measures blur the impact that compact development has on the utility that people receive from their environment. This is because compactness can shape personal VMT in opposite directions: a desire for TCS can make people reduce their VMT, but people can end up traveling more if they make more trips and/or travel to more remote destinations to gain greater destination utility. I test these ideas by fitting trip-frequency models in the Puget Sound region and in the Southeast Michigan region. Empirical analysis supports my hypothesis by suggesting that compact development has countervailing effects on driving. I thus conclude that VMT-reduction measures underrepresent the transportation benefits of compact development.
To facilitate accessibility-based planning policy implementation, the third paper empirically evaluates the relative importance of walkability, transit accessibility, and auto accessibility in residential location choice across three U.S. regions (Puget Sound, Southeast Michigan, and Atlanta). I find that in general, transit accessibility is a more important determinant of residential location choice than walkability and auto accessibility. The results further suggest that households’ “preferred behavior” can be different from their actual choices because of housing-supply constraints. This implies that if housing supply changes, estimates of accessibility preferences may change accordingly. This finding challenges the standard practice of land-use and transportation modeling, which forecasts future land-use patterns based on the presumed stability of historical or present estimates of accessibility preferences.
Walking, Transit Use and Urban Morphology in Walkable Urban Neighborhoods: An Examination of Behaviors and Attitudes in Seattle Neighborhoods
by Devon Scott McAslan
Creating walkable cities has become an important planning objective over the last twenty years. Cities are also investing billions of dollars in public transit in an effort to reduce automobile dependence. This dissertation investigates the relationship between transit use and walkability in walkable urban neighborhoods – neighborhoods that are dense; have mixed land uses; connected street networks; numerous destinations; and proximity to transit – to highlight the different purposes that walking and transit serve in different parts of a city. This dissertation, in part, serves as an empirical test of the theory of urban fabrics and explores the implications it has for planning practice as it relates to walkability and public transportation planning. The theory of urban fabrics argues that each city is a combination of three urban fabrics: walking, transit, and automobile fabrics. This is in contrast to current transportation planning which sees the city as having a single transportation network with multiple modes. Recognizing this approach as a limitation is important because each mode of transportation serves different purposes in different parts of a city and each urban fabric has different planning approaches associated with it.
I use a nested case study research design with mixed methods. Seattle and its urban core neighborhoods serve as my cases. Neighborhood mapping, pedestrian observations, a travel behavior survey, and interviews provide both quantitative and qualitative data to answer my research questions. The project emphasizes the role that different types of infrastructure plays in facilitating walking and transit use – pedestrian oriented infrastructure, transit infrastructure, and automobile infrastructure. The emphasis on infrastructure comes from the theory of urban fabrics and the characteristics that are common to each of the three urban fabrics. The infrastructure chosen reflects the priorities of different modes of transportation as they manifest themselves in the physical design and layout of our streets, and I analyze them at the neighborhood and block scale.
The urban core of Seattle is a predominantly walking environment, although there is significant variation in the levels of walking among the seven neighborhoods studied within the urban core. Neighborhoods with more pedestrian infrastructure and less automobile infrastructure have higher levels of walking. Similar patterns are evident at the block scale, where pedestrian infrastructure positively influences walking and more automobile infrastructure correlates to less walking. The availability of transit positively correlates with higher walking activity. The location of transit is often inconsequential to those who live in the urban core, and they are much more likely to use light rail over other options because it is the fastest and most reliable. Car traffic, unsafe streets, and conflicts with other modes of transportation are the most common barriers to walking. Inefficient transit routes, unreliability of bus transit, and inadequate destinations are the most common barriers to increased transit use. These results, which lend considerable support to the validity of urban fabrics, give insight into how planners can better plan for walkability and develop more robust public transit systems. Existing practices in Seattle to create a walkable city do not do enough to prioritize walking in the urban core. Additionally, new public transit investments are inadequate to meet the needs of Seattle residents. The findings of this dissertation and the theory of urban fabrics offer insights into how to better plan walkable and transit oriented neighborhoods, cities and regions.
Questioning as We Walk: Case Analysis of Community Organizing in Rio Grande Valley Colonias
by Danielle Zoe Rivera
Why are United States (U.S.)/Mexico colonias assumed to lack the capacity to organize? Are they, in fact, capable of community organizing? This dissertation sought to resolve a major discrepancy between evidence of colonia organizing on the ground and theories of community organizing that obscure colonia-based practices. Deriving from recent critiques of the field, the research uses a relational theory of organizing to reframe historic and contemporary colonia organizing practices. Using a qualitative case analysis of the Rio Grande Valley (Valley) of Texas, twenty-one colonia organizations and networks embedded within the case were comparatively examined. Data collection included twenty open-ended interviews with colonia organizers and observations of fifteen organizations between 2014 and 2016. This data was then analyzed through a relational framework that emphasized the position of Valley colonia organizing within the “third country” of the U.S./Mexico border, a region that remains distinct from the United States and Mexico.
Based on this analysis, the dissertation identifies four historic and four contemporary colonia organizing movements. The narratives of these eight movements subvert commonly held knowledge concerning colonia organizing by highlighting not only the existence of such organizing, but also its tenacity and breadth of scope. A common theme emerges regarding the role of self-help. However, this self-help implies a “do-it-yourself” attitude, not the government self-help housing programs that are frequently associated with colonia development. Contemporary colonia organizers are reappropriating the term “self-help” and, in a time of government austerity, are creating several regional colonia movements with the goal of supporting low-income, grassroots colonia leadership. Key to this goal is the creation of community-based civics education driven at a regional scale by the colonia residents. Ultimately, the dissertation not only upends a common assumption regarding colonia capacity to organize, but also provides insights into community organizing theory and its grasp on the connections between social context and practice. At an even higher level, there is a need to reassess theoretical definitions of “territory” and “sovereignty” to match the practices of the ultra-poor.
Technopolitics of Historic Preservation in Southeast Asian Chinatowns: Penang, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City
by Napong Tao Rugkhapan
This dissertation investigates the technopolitics of historic preservation in three Southeast Asian Chinatowns: Penang, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh City. I situate this work in the literature on the politics of governmental intervention that views programs of improvement in the larger nexus of knowledge and power (Legg, 2006; Li, 2007; Mitchell 2002; Scott, 1998). Rather than an apolitical technique of intervention, historic preservation goes beyond a strict field of aesthetic restoration. Historic preservation, too, entails its own technopolitics, in which the technical necessarily entails the political. To tease out the technopolitics in historic preservation, I attend to four points of analysis: technique, space, rationale, and politics. First, in urban planning, governmental intervention is enacted through various forms of what I call planning techniques, e.g. maps, zoning, architectural guidelines, and heritage inventory. Second, each of the planning techniques is a kind of spatial intervention. It has its own program of intervention, in which the object of intervention is space. Space, too, takes variously corresponding forms: building height; conservation areas; residential units, construction material; traditional livelihoods, among others. Third, each spatial intervention is justified through a certain rationale, underwritten by a certain epistemic vocabulary. Each spatial intervention is done in the name of vocabularies such as ‘heritage’, ‘density’, ‘progress’. Fourth, in its own way, each planning technique activates its own politics. The term politics in technopolitics implies the twofold deployment and contestation of power. While the chapters take on different planning techniques, from mapmaking to zoning, each of the chapters loyally traces the unfolding of these four points.
I make four arguments. First, while the planning techniques are conceived as solution to a problem, they themselves are not problem-free. The planner attributes his authority to technical knowledge, which, in fact, does not constitute the universe of knowledge, but a selection thereof. Second, a planning problem is often a problematization. A problem does not exist readily. Instead, it has to be constructed and rationalized through a certain vocabulary. It has to be framed in a certain way to lend itself to solution. Third, there are limits to the problematization and its corresponding solution. If technical knowledge may be viewed as selection, there may very well be omission. Fourth, in the face of such omission, contestation is inevitable. I pay attention to the moments of contestation, where the planning techniques clash with things they seek to omit in the first place.
Planning to be Prepared: Assessing Local Level Planning for Climate Change in the United States
by Melissa A. Stults
Climate change is leading to more frequent and intense impacts such as droughts, floods, heat waves, shifting disease patterns, and deteriorating natural systems, all of which are disrupting the ability of local communities to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of their citizenry. In light of this, a growing number of communities are creating stand alone climate adaptation plans that identify their place based vulnerabilities as well as their prioritized actions for preparing for existing as well as projected changes in future weather and long-term climate. In some cases, communities are also embedding climate considerations into other planning domains, such as hazard mitigation planning. To date, however, no systematic and thorough analysis of the processes used to create these plans or their content has been undertaken. This dissertation fills these voids by evaluating the content of 44 stand alone climate adaptation plans and 30 hazard mitigation plans for U.S. local communities in order to answer four interrelated questions:
- How do existing climate adaptation plans align with emerging principles of plan quality? What community attributes are associated with higher quality plans?
- How are U.S. local communities framing uncertainty in their climate adaptation planning? What approaches are local communities using to address uncertainty in their climate adaptation planning?
- What are U.S. local governments planning to do to prepare for climate change? How do these actions align with the risks or vulnerabilities faced by these local governments? Do local governments provide detail to support the implementation of the actions they identify?
- How could existing Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation planning guidelines be altered to integrate climate change? How are local communities currently integrating climate change into hazard planning?
Results show that across all stand alone adaptation plans analyzed, plans consistently: have strong factual bases, drawing upon multiple data sources to understand existing and future vulnerabilities; include a wide variety of adaptation actions; identify numerous types of uncertainty related to planning for climate change; and are using, on average, between 4-5 uncertainty reducing approaches promoted in the literature during their planning process. Most plans, however, include extremely limited implementation details, have built out limited adaptive management processes, and continue to use uncertainty reducing approaches that fall within the traditional ‘predict and plan’ model of planning. These differences hold regardless of community size or geographical location. These findings raise concerns about whether plans are both flexible enough to deal with the rapidly changing climate and if the actions in the plans will translate into ‘on the ground’ projects that build a community’s resilience to climate change.
Results also validate previous studies by showing that having planners actively engaged in or leading the adaptation planning process and working with elected officials to secure their support, help produce higher quality plans. Results also show that those creating adaptation plans emphasize uncertainty that is outside of the planner’s control, with limited attention paid to lingering sources of uncertainty that the planner has the ability to influence.
Contrary to previous studies, results show that communities are including a wide variety of adaptation actions in their plans, with an emphasis on research and monitoring actions as well as actions focused on making changes to operational practices and behavior. This contrasts with earlier studies showing that adaptation plans disproportionately emphasize capacity building actions. This shift to more concrete actions may be a sign that communities are aware of the need to identify a variety of actions in their planning process in order to comprehensively plan for climate change. In addition, results show that two thirds of the communities with stand alone climate adaptation plans have also embedded climate change, in some way, into their hazard mitigation plan. While there is significant room for improving this practice, this finding is a promising sign as it indicates that communities are looking for opportunities to embed or mainstream climate considerations throughout a variety of existing and more institutionalized planning processes.
Cumulatively, these results suggest that the first generation of adaptation planning is more comprehensive than originally documented in the literature. However, much more work is needed to ensure that the next generation of planning improves upon the limitations identified in these first generation plans. In particular, the next generation of adaptation planning: needs to embrace flexible uncertainty reducing approaches, including the creation of adaptive and iterative planning processes; should more fully engage non-traditional stakeholders and elected leaders in the planning process; and include far more details related to how identified actions will transition into real-world adaptation projects.
In conclusion, this research resulted in the creation of an analytical framework and accompanying methodology for evaluating plans, a new conceptual framework for organizing sources of uncertainty relative to the role of the planner, a new conceptual framework for understanding and classifying approaches for managing uncertainty, a comparison of theoretically robust adaptation strategies to those prioritized in local adaptation plans, and the identification of practical ways that communities can embed climate considerations into their hazard mitigation planning. This research also highlighted a tension that is largely missing from the literature: should a community create a stand alone plan or embed climate considerations into other planning domains? The dissertation concludes with policy guidance for practitioners struggling with this question.
Making Self-Help Infrastructure Finance Regional: Promises and Perils of a Multi-Jurisdictional Approach
by David Weinreich
In recent decades, Congress has failed to raise transportation revenues to keep pace with inflation and growth in traffic volume. Insufficient funding for transportation programs has induced many local governments to fund new road and transit infrastructure themselves, using ballot initiatives known as local option transportation taxes. While localized taxing decisions have become more politically expedient than raising federal and state motor fuel taxes, local funding comes with inherent drawbacks for developing regional transportation, which crosses into multiple taxing jurisdictions. This creates a potentially serious impediment to dealing with crucial problems like air quality, job access for the economically disadvantaged, and promotion of economic growth. In response, some regions have chosen to make local funding decisions using multi-jurisdictional, rather than local, taxes. These places have voted across an entire region, allowing them to develop comprehensive, systemic solutions to transportation problems.
This study identifies barriers to the implementation of regional self-help strategies, and approaches that have worked in overcoming them. Using interviews and archival evidence, this study examines seven cases in Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Denver, focusing on how state authorizing legislation shaped each process. This study develops a typology of multi-jurisdictional transportation funding mechanisms and identifies appropriate state and local policy approaches for situations that vary according to features of the authorizing legislation.
The political cost of developing a multi-jurisdictional option tax can be reduced by the existence of robust regional policy making institution, though these rarely exist in U.S. regions. The cost may also be lowered by permissive legislation. Such legislation can lift a major political obstacle to regional funding initiatives but can also make local collaboration more costly due to absence of legislation forcing rival jurisdictions to cooperate. Nevertheless, both possibilities are much less costly than the lack of any pre-approved authorizing legislation. This situation requires special legislation for each tax measure, which can result in elevated influence by state legislators in developing the transportation plan, and difficulty repeating the process.
Understanding Low-Income Residents’ Sense of Community in Post-Apartheid Housing Developments in South Africa
by Jennifer A. Williams
South Africa’s Department of Human Settlements has sought to rectify apartheid-era injustices through the mass construction of low-income housing. Housing allocation efforts have led to the demolition of informal settlements and relocation of low-income residents to new developments. The drive to eliminate informal settlements rests within a global call to achieve “slum”-free cities. Many residents in South Africa come from informal settlements, where they have developed networks of trust, participation, and livelihoods. A concern with relocation efforts is that new housing developments disrupt pre-existing sense of community, which refers to an individual’s feeling of belonging to a group with a shared connection and attachment to place.
My dissertation investigates the influence of different housing approaches on residents’ sense of community, as indicated in social trust, community participation, and place attachment. This dissertation asks: How do different approaches to housing low-income residents influence sense of community? In order to answer this research question, I conducted field work in four sites: Cosmo City (a state-driven private developer project in Johannesburg); Diepsloot (a vast informal settlement in Johannesburg); Freedom Park (a self-help community in western Cape Town); Springfield Terrace (medium density apartments near the Cape Town CBD). With the support of a research team, I took a mixed-method approach through several data collection activities: 190 door-to-door surveys, 82 semi-structured resident interviews, 11 community mapping focus group sessions, and 15 semi-structured interviews with community leaders and non-governmental organizations.
During my research, I discovered that arriving to new housing resulted in feeling uprooted for some residents who no longer lived near their former neighbors. Smaller scale housing developments, located close to the city center, and on land that has historical meaning for residents mitigate feelings of estrangement. The limited capacity to form neighborhood watch or street cleanup groups stems from lack of will or ability, infrastructure, funding, and training. Residents are more likely to report attachment to place if they demonstrate feelings of belonging, safety, pride, and plans to stay in their housing in the future. This study revealed that medium density housing developments, rather than mega housing projects, support a greater sense of community.
Art Museums and Their Connection to Neighborhood Change: A Case Study of the Portland Art Museum in Oregon
by Justin Meyer
Following the successes of art museums like the Guggenheim Bilbao and a growing body of literature linking arts and culture organizations to economically improved urban space, city boosters have conceptualized art museums as institutions that can revitalize urban areas and attract local development and human capital to cities. However, an art museum’s ability to attract new development and its connection to higher socioeconomic groups likely implicate it in the negative processes of gentrification, which include displacement, socio-cultural isolation of, and/or higher housing costs for residents. While several studies have investigated the local economic impact of art museums, few have investigated how art museums might influence socioeconomic change and community building in neighborhoods. My dissertation research investigates the role of art museums in community development, focusing on socioeconomic change and community engagement, to answer whether or not art museums can help cities create high quality, inclusive, and economically sustainable neighborhoods.
My dissertation research uses mixed methods in three distinct analyses to understand the relationship between large-scale art museums and neighborhood change. Starting with a quantitative analysis of socioeconomic change in 154 neighborhoods adjacent to 59 regional/national art museums in the largest 50 U.S. cities, my dissertation then turns to an in-depth case study of the Portland Art Museum (Oregon) and its surrounding neighborhood between 1890 and 2014, as well as an organizational analysis of the art museum community engagement between 1994 and 2014. In these analyses, I found evidence that regional economic trajectory and institutional dynamics influence what role an art museum has in neighborhood change. My data suggest that art museums are more likely to bestow anchoring benefits to their neighborhoods in shrinking economies, as well as are more inclined to support bridging between diverse social groups in an environment of limited private philanthropy and sufficient federal funding. The data also suggest that art museums in growing economies, while not linked by the data to significant displacement or increased housing costs in their adjacent neighborhoods, are inclined toward fostering relationships with more privileged groups and improving their status among their institution peers.
Privatizing Urban Planning and the Struggle for Inclusive Urban Development: New Redevelopment Forms and Participatory Planning in São Paulo
by Joshua Shake
Large-scale redevelopment projects have grown in use around the world and taken many forms. In São Paulo, Brazil, the previous and current mayoral administrations have been directing projects to redevelop the Luz neighborhood of the downtown region through contracts with private sector developers for plan creation and project completion. Additionally, community groups participate in the process through the legally mandated municipal council. Redevelopment in São Paulo is therefore distinctive from other contemporary redevelopment project styles occurring elsewhere: it is resulting in the privatization of urban planning and has a little used form of required participation through the municipal council structure.
Nonetheless, contemporary understandings of these two governance forms suggest they cannot function concurrently. By examining cities as assemblages of urban policies—from local, national, and international sources—and understanding the pathways and contexts from which these polices emerge, we will gain new insights on the city. This reframing allows for a new understanding of public-private partnerships and democratic governance—one that breaks from the oppositional dichotomies present explicitly and implicitly in other accounts and provides for an understanding of the historical specificity of the two forms at this moment. Further, the São Paulo case exemplifies a more nuanced understanding of the public and private logics of urban development; they are not either/or, oppositional forces but occur concurrently in varied ways for the same urban space and project. Sometimes, they function harmoniously with consensus and cooperation, but others with contention and conflict.
Risk, Rationality, and Regional Governance
by Thomas Skuzinski
What are the preferences of local elected officials toward joint land use planning, a type of interlocal cooperation and form of regional governance? And how do we explain these preferences? The literature on interlocal cooperation depicts public officials as rational opportunists whose preferences and behaviors can be reliably predicted by institutional attributes of the municipal, intermunicipal, and political context in which they serve—i.e., where material benefits to the municipality or to the local official outweigh costs, cooperation will arise and endure. I propose that in policy areas where local benefits are uncertain and local autonomy is at risk, thought processes are significantly affected by individually held cultural values. I specify a cultural cognition of governance hypothesis, in which variation in individuals’ preferences toward interlocal cooperation is a result of variation in measurable dispositions toward solidarity (versus individualism) and equality (versus differentiation). I test the hypothesis using data on 538 local elected officials representing 262 Michigan municipalities in the Detroit and Grand Rapids metropolitan areas. The dependent variables are measures of preferences toward four types of agreement made under the state’s Joint Municipal Planning Act of 2003 (“JMPA”). The JMPA is flexible, allowing agreements that cover from a few parcels of land to entire municipalities, and from a merely advisory planning commission to a complete merger with dissolution of existing local planning and zoning functions. The legislation, therefore, presents a unique opportunity for probing local elected officials’ preferences toward land use cooperation under multiple adoption and implementation scenarios. Independent variables are constructed from survey data on local elected officials’ cultural dispositions, political perceptions, and individual level controls, and from municipal level census and fiscal data. Based on analysis with hierarchical linear modeling, findings provide strong support for the cultural cognition of governance hypothesis. The findings speak to the prospects for regional governance and the understanding of collaboration and social learning in planning processes.
Preserving Agriculture through Wind Energy Development: A Study of the Social, Economic, and Land Use Effects of Windfarms on Rural Landowners and Their Communities
by Sarah Mills
This research tests the claim made by some rural officials that windfarms help to preserve farmland. Using a mixed-methods case study approach, I draw on evidence from four Michigan windfarms to test three different mechanisms by which wind turbines might be altering the farmland conversion process, as derived from both the rural planning and wind energy literatures. First, a large-scale (n=1730) mail survey of farmland owners is used to determine that landowners with turbines on their property invest significantly more in their farms than both their neighbors and farmland owners in a similarly situated non-windfarm community. Landowners with turbines are also more likely to have a succession plan in place for their farm and less likely to believe their land will go idle in the future than other landowners. However, the more indirect financial benefits of wind development—local jobs and increased property tax revenues—do not appear to have such positive impacts on landowners who live in the windfarm community but who do not have a turbine sited on their property. Second, interviews with realtors and public officials in these case study communities indicate that, rather than reduce demand for new homes in the vicinity of the windfarm as I had hypothesized, windfarm income may be inducing some landowners to build new homes within sight of the turbines. Finally, through geospatial analysis of zoning ordinances, I find that, though farmland preservation is rarely considered when officials establish setback distances for wind turbines, the amount of land rendered undevelopable by the presence of the turbines can be substantial.
These findings can inform officials and rural planners who might be considering whether and how to welcome wind development within their jurisdictions, by providing information about the social and economic impacts of wind development to local communities. Wind developers can find in this research quantitative data on what landowners in communities with wind turbines see as the key benefits and drawbacks of wind energy, allowing these developers to better communicate the benefits and improve their practices to minimize the drawbacks to encourage more rural communities to accept wind energy development.
Fostering Participation and Capacity Building with Neighborhood Information Systems
by David Epstein
Applying information to decision making, monitoring neighborhood conditions, targeting resources, and recommending action have long been key urban planning functions. Increasingly, nonprofit organizations like community development corporations (CDCs) carry out these functions in distressed urban areas. Scholars in multiple disciplines argue that “data democratization”—increased access to data—would support a wide range of community change efforts. Proponents of a specific data delivery tool—neighborhood information systems (NIS)—claim that the technology can increase public participation and community capacity. This research evaluates these claims in Cleveland where the mortgage foreclosure crisis has left a glut of vacant and abandoned properties and a dire need to prioritize activities with limited resources. The research combines three distinct frameworks: one for the evaluation of information systems, one for community capacity building, and one for community development corporation capacity building. The mixed-methods approach employed includes interviews with sixty community development professionals in Cleveland and a longitudinal regression analysis of thirty CDCs’ housing rehabilitation outcomes between July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2011. NIS increased the networking capacity of CDCs engaged in the city’s Code Enforcement Partnership. NIS also increased the programmatic capacity of CDCs as measured by the percentage of properties purchased that were sold to new owners who paid taxes on those properties. The findings suggest that access to NIS has not fundamentally changed CDC priorities or workflows. NIS providers may wish to consider their role as not just democratizing data—but providing a platform for partnerships dependent on data.
Public Space and Life in an Indian City: The Politics of Space in Bangalore
by Salila Vanka
SMy dissertation examines the tension between state-driven urban development policies and societal responses to spatial transformations in Indian cities. At the same time that state actors have undertaken large-scale renewal projects to modernize Indian cities, conflicting demands for land have triggered a rise in authorized and unauthorized encroachments on everyday public spaces in Bangalore. In the context of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 and other reforms that have strengthened the role of local governing bodies and citizens in urban planning and governance, my research examines contestations between state and non-state actors over Bangalore’s public streets, sidewalks, parks and playgrounds. Specifically this research asks, “What do the conceptualizations and claims of different actors of state and society to public space reveal about planning and governance in Indian cities?”
My research examines three cases of contestations for public space in Bangalore. The first case studies the struggles of a subaltern bamboo-weaver community to remain on a public sidewalk in the face of threats of eviction to accommodate a public rail project. The second case examines a middle-class environmental network’s activism against felling of street trees for a municipal road-widening project. The third case examines an elite neighborhood group’s efforts to reverse master-planned changes to a neighborhood civic amenity site.
This research reveals new forms of state-society engagement in spatial politics in Bangalore, thus contributing to scholarship on the politics of planning and governance in Indian cities. The first case shows that subaltern groups seek recourse in caste politics when state actors do not acknowledge their economic rights, instead relegating their claims to welfare schemes. The second case reveals multiple bourgeois visions of urban public space and also demonstrates that middle-class actors are willing to use confrontational methods to engage with unresponsive state actors. The third case shows that elite neighborhood groups develop mutually beneficial connections with government officials to gain access to neighborhood public spaces. In sum, my research shows that different social groups in Indian cities seek resolution for their claims to public space in electoral and caste politics, and not necessarily in official forums of participatory governance that privilege middle-class actors.
Land Tenure, Politics, and Perception: A Study of Tenure Security and Housing Improvement in Indian Slums
by Shohei Nakamura
Scholars have argued that the persistent risk of forced eviction constrains housing investment by slum residents, who would otherwise have motivation and resources to incrementally upgrade their houses. However, the conceptualization of tenure security and its link to housing investment remains inconsistent, and systematically investigated empirical evidence about the role of tenure security—in particular, the effect of land tenure formalization—has been scarce.
Three essays in this dissertation fill this critical research gap with a focus on India. This study is a rare endeavor that bridges the theories of tenure security and housing investment and scholarship on urban informality and politics in India. In so doing, this research theoretically disentangles the interplay of the three elements of tenure security: legal, de facto, and perceived tenure security. Empirically, this dissertation explores how the interaction of land tenure, politics, and the perception of slum dwellers affect housing investment behaviors.
In India, some local government agencies legally protect slum dwellers from forced eviction under slum notification (or declaration) policy. Using a nationally representative dataset, the first essay in this dissertation estimates the effect of slum notification on the amount of housing investments by slum residents across India. The second essay further estimates the impact of slum declaration on the longitudinal change in housing structures in Pune. Its statistical analysis of the original household survey detects the positive effect of slum declaration and its heterogeneity. These findings demonstrate that the legal assurance of slum dwellers’ occupancy, instead of the provision of full property rights, can expedite housing improvement. By integrating a survey analysis and the case study of a slum in Pune, the third essay reveals how slum dwellers form beliefs about their rights to develop housing and how these beliefs significantly influence their housing investment decisions. In addition, the study illuminates the complexity in the relationship of (il)legality and politics in urban India, and how this politico-legal interaction affects tenure security and housing conditions in slums.
Under What Conditions Can Rail Transit Induce Higher Density? Evidence from Four Metropolitan Areas in the United States, 1990-2010
by Qingyun Shen
Ample empirical evidence shows that dense urban forms can promote rail transit use and reduce car dependence. However, evidence of the reverse causal link—the impact of urban rail transit investments on neighborhood land use forms — is less clear. Previous studies that evaluate the land use impacts of the urban rail transit systems yield mixed results on whether and how these systems could affect land use forms. Those mixed results suggest that the existence and magnitude of land use changes due to rail projects are likely influenced by certain contextual conditions, pertaining both to the project location and to its regional setting. It is the focus of this study to explore what those conditions are and to examine how they could affect the land use impacts of urban rail transit projects on the nearby neighborhoods.
Out of many dimensions that describe land use impacts, this research chooses to examine the changes in population and housing densities—the densification effects, in particular. After theorizing the mechanisms of the densification effects of urban rail transit, this study hypothesizes on the key factors that may interfere with such land use effects and tests those hypotheses in empirical studies. It takes into account both the internal and external factors that could interfere with the land use impacts of urban rail transit. The internal factors include the type of rail transit and the station features; the external factors include the pre-existing conditions of the neighborhoods where the rail stations are located. To provide the most recent evidence on this topic, this research selects four metropolitan areas in the United States as the study cases—Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., each of which constructed new urban rail lines in the 1990s. Applying a difference-in-differences design and a mixed methodology of spatial and regression analyses, this study quantifies the effects of new rail stations on neighborhood population/housing density changes and investigates the conditions that may promote or mitigate such effects.
The findings on individual cases show that a new rail transit station is more likely to help increase population and housing densities when it is introduced in a moderate-income neighborhood with a pre-existing condition of compactness and relatively few single-family houses. A cross-comparison of the results from the four difference cases reveals that heavy rail lines are more likely to trigger increase in population and housing density than light rail lines. In addition, the network effect also matters—a new urban rail line that is an extension to an existing rail transit network is more likely to promote density increase than a brand new urban rail system built from scratch.
This study contributes to the long-lasting debate on the costs and benefits of urban rail transit investments. It provides the most recent empirical evidence on the densification effects of urban rail transit in the United States. Furthermore, it is the first of its kind to systematically study the interference of both the internal and external factors of a new urban rail transit project on its potential land use impacts. The findings of this study can be used to help transit planners make informed planning decisions on the site selection of a new rail station in the future, if densification is one of their planning goals.
Assessing and Reducing Exposure to Heat Waves in Cuyahoga County, Ohio
by Nicholas Rajkovich
In the United States, more people die from heat waves than from any other type of natural disaster. Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events. Fatalities during hot weather occur primarily in cities, in part due to the urban heat island effect.
This dissertation addresses heat-related exposure in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and is structured around three complementary studies. The first study investigates the urban heat island effect using a mobile measurement platform. Variations in solar radiation and albedo led to greater-than-30°C shifts in the ground surface temperature. Air temperatures recorded downwind from forested areas were 0.25°C cooler than those recorded over impervious, bare soil, or grass land covers. Water provided a cooling effect that was roughly 2.7 times stronger than that of a forest. However, large areas of forest or water were necessary to reduce the local air temperature; 11.8 hectares of water (29.16 acres) resulted in only a 0.67°C reduction in temperature.
A second study addresses exposure in single family detached houses. Five house types were modeled in thermal load software with different configurations of insulation, air infiltration, and windows to evaluate the effect of weatherization on annual energy usage, air-conditioning operation, and indoor temperature. Weatherization lowered the yearly cost to heat and cool a house by $260 to $480 USD; it also decreased electricity usage associated with air-conditioning by more than 35%. Weatherization reduced the required size of air-conditioning equipment by 40 to 50% per house. However, if windows remain closed during warm weather, weatherization treatments may increase exposure to temperatures above the ASHRAE thermal comfort zone.
A final study investigates how professionals responsible for reducing exposure to high temperatures define and act to reduce temperature-related morbidity and mortality. Using a system of professions approach, professionals from the health, building science, and urban environment policy sectors were linked to tasks they consider their jurisdiction, such as cooling centers, residential energy efficiency, or developing codes and standards. Results from twenty-eight semi-structured interviews indicate barriers among programs. Collaborative efforts may help to bridge among disciplines and improve strategies to reduce exposure to future heat waves.
Critical Perspectives on Local Governance: The Formation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Low-Income Immigrant Neighborhoods of Los Angeles
by Wonhyung Lee
Business improvement districts (BIDs) are local organizations that have been revitalizing commercial areas for the last two decades in the United States. While local governments are cutting back on the delivery of services, local stakeholders such as property owners and business owners are assuming new roles by providing private services aimed at improving commercial landscapes. The emergence of BIDs represents the growing importance of sublocal governing structures for local development and revitalization. However, not every commercial district succeeds in establishing BIDs despite their interest and need. This research aims to understand why certain neighborhoods fail to form BIDs and what factors could facilitate successful formation of BIDs in the context of low-income multiethnic neighborhoods in which BIDs can function as an effective economic and community development tool. This research presents a comparative examination of two commercial districts in Los Angeles—MacArthur Park and the Byzantine Latino Quarter (BLQ)—that share similar demographic characteristics but have yielded different BID formation outcomes. This research involved collecting archival data, observations, and in-depth interviews during a year-long field research in Los Angeles. Major groups of interviewees include property owners, community organization staff, city employees, and private consultants involved in the BID formation process. The comparison of the two neighborhoods revealed common challenges for BID formation that are related to a high percentage of absentee property owners, spatial tensions and information gap among multiethnic groups, and low human and financial capital. Despite these challenges, the BLQ displayed distinguishable factors, which may have contributed to successful BID formation, including invested and persistent community stakeholders, partnerships with non- and quasi-governmental and organizations, sound foundation of residents’ activism, and efforts to embrace multi-ethnic groups in the neighborhood. The findings of this study offers meaningful insights for understanding the kind of struggle that low-income immigrant neighborhoods usually experience in BID formation; broadening the current theoretical and empirical understandings of multicultural community organizing; and guiding a more equitable distribution of public services and resources for the areas with inconclusive or ineffective efforts for BID formation.
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.
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.